Tag Archives: the vanilla queen

Saturday 18th November 2023 – I’VE HAD ONE …

… of those days where I haven’t really accomplished all that much.

Not that I can complain too much though. I accomplished everything that I intended to do, and with plenty of time to spare as well. And that’s not something that happens every day.

For once I was awake a long time before the alarm went off and had I really pushed myself I could have been up and about as well. But let’s not go getting ahead of ourselves.

After the medication and checking the mails I had a very slow start to the day and it wasn’t until I’d had my mid-morning coffee and soup that I had a listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. There was a wedding taking place amongst the family. We were all assembled staying somewhere in a house for the night. Tea was pretty rudimentary so we all had tea in our room, a kind-of bedroom with about 12 beds in it and rubbish and mess everywhere. It really was untidy – much more untidy than anything I could ever come up with. While I was serving out the tea a cat came in. I offered it some of the tea but it promptly threw up everywhere which put a lot of people off their meal. I cleaned it up then we sat down to eat as best as we could amongst the debris and mess. Then I collected up the dishes to take into the kitchen to wash. My brother in law was there. His part of the room was the worst of all. He was saying “just take this for me – just take that for me – go and pick this up – go and pick that up” so I exploded at him and told him “instead of standing there giving orders if he went and did the jobs himself he’d find that it would probably be done a lot quicker” and stormed out of the room into the kitchen where I bumped into my mother. She asked what was going on so I explained that I’d just upset her son in law to which she made a remark to him too. I put the dishes down on the table.

Actually, to give you some idea, that particular member of my family actually tried to provoke me into a fight with him – at a family funeral in 2000, would you believe?

50 years or so ago another member of my family was marrying. I was living in the ground floor apartment of this building at the time. I remember having to look out of the window at something that was going on outside but I really can’t remember what it was. I had things to do to prepare myself for this event. Someone whom I knew but had forgotten now made some kind of derogatory remark about my appearance. I reminded them that I could probably give them 50 years in age and the idea of what is smart is set by convention rather than by just one person’s idea

And that’s nothing new either.

Everyone in the house was asleep. I was doing the accounts for the taxis. Roxanne was awake and came to see what I was doing. We had a chat while we were doing that. When we finished I suggested that we go downstairs and so something. She ran over to her slippers but instead she took her heavy clog-type shoes that were by the door by where her parents were sleeping. I told her to put on her slippers but she said that she might be going out. I told her to pick them up and bring them with her but she said that she wasn’t allowed bare feet in the house. She began to put on her clogs but made a noise so I told her to be quiet or she’d awaken her parents. She said that I’d awaken her parents by making a noise to her and that’s what always happens. I didn’t really explain to her that what was actually awakening them was the noise of her putting on her clogs, not me telling her off about it. She put her clogs on and went dancing off down the corridor and luckily her parents didn’t actually awaken at that moment.

Yes, Roxanne was a lovely, happy child. When she was 9 years old she and I were sitting outside a café in Ixelles while Laurence had gone to the shops. Roxanne was sitting next to me drawing a picture and we were talking about what she was doing. One woman sitting at the next table said to her friend, in one of these stage whispers “you can see whose daughter she is” and I’ll never forget the big beaming smile on Roxanne’s face.

When she was 6 I taught her to ride a bike and to swim and by the time she was 9 she was riding my Honda scooter up and down the street and steering the car (sitting on my knee of course) down the country lanes around Virlet.

Meanwhile, back at the ran … errr … bed, while I was out walking last night something came along and hacked all my dwarf or gnome followers into bits. When I returned it was like a huge jigsaw puzzle and I had to spend hours slowly matching up the bits to remake the bodies. Eventually I began to make one or two correctly and even one or two of their house animals correctly. It was taking a very long time but I could see that I was going to be able to solve this and end up with all of my dwarves and gnomes reassembled.

My father asked me to drive over to the Shetland islands for a job that he had lined up for me. Full of mystery and suspense I set off. I eventually arrived. It turned out that one of his friends who lived on this particular island had had the opportunity to sponsor a lamp post outside his house and wanted to talk about it to someone. All this sounded extremely vague to me and the directions that my father gave me to the guy’s house weren’t of any help but he produced a couple of photos and that at least gave me some kind of idea where the house might be situated. I set off and eventually found it. It was a house in a dip with a great big street light right by it that was shining over the dip so it was really as if the house was completely floodlit. The old guy had the idea that he would sponsor it as a form of advertising. We had a lengthy discussion about the Shetland Islands, the Faroes, etc and even touched on the islands in the Arctic archipelago – strangely enough, ones of which I’d dreamt, not ones that actually exist. In the end her persuaded me to go to see his neighbour, an elderly Colonel. I went off to see him. He was completely bewildered. I explained that it’s certainly the aim of several counties in the UK to have their street furniture sponsored as a way of raising money and a way for people to advertise themselves or their possessions etc. He thought it rather strange which it probably was. he showed me around his house which was full of all kinds of different things, hardly anywhere spare of clutter on the floor or walls etc but it was all neatly arranged. After this guy left me alone for half an hour I began to sit and wonder that this was probably the strangest thing in which I’ve ever been involved. If this Colonel guy has to start moving around all his things for any particular reason we’ll be here for ever organising it. I just wondered what was going through this old man’s mind.

I went into a pub in Crewe for a drink – something that I haven’t done in years. I found to my surprise that I’d been barred. I had absolutely no idea why. It must be 40 years since I last had a beer. The next day I was at work. There was a kind-of complex confrontation going on about my timesheets. At one stage my manager took my phone and began to scroll through it. I asked him if he had a search warrant which made him immediately drop it so I immediately went onto the offensive and we had the most amazing row. I left and decided that I’d go to another pub to see if I could have a drink there. I asked for half a pint of mild but she served me half a pint of milk. We laughed about that and she gave me a drink. I began to drink it. As I was leaving I overheard a couple of conversations. One was a barman talking to one of the girls sitting at the bar. There was definitely something not correct about that conversation. He was trying to persuade her to do something and I could tell that she wasn’t all that keen at all. The other one was some people discussing councillors. A guy came in and began to talk about the building work taking place next door. Some guy had had several thousand pounds to do some digging there but as soon as he had received the money he dismissed the contractors and had the gipsies in to do it for cash. They were discussing the guy and how crooked he was. It was someone whom I actually knew so I stayed to listen to the conversation. As it happened, the guy was a Conservative Councillor so as I left I asked “what was that you were saying about councillors earlier?”. There was still a few minutes left before my bus so I thought that I’d walk through the shopping precinct off Victoria Street. I’d heard some depressing stories about it. They were right. all of the buildings were flaking, the paint was coming off, many were closed and areas of the precinct were in complete darkness as the street lights weren’t working. It looked like something from Chernobyl. I thought that I’d walk around for a while then go back to the bus station to catch my bus home.

Actually, that’s a slight exaggeration. The last time I had an alcoholic drink was in 1994. We’d been skiing up in the mountains on the border between Bulgaria and Greece and the fog came down. When we finally arrived at the gondola to take us back down to the valley it was all locked up and everyone had gone home.

We had to pick our way down the mountain on skis, completely off-piste and when we eventually reached the valley the only place open to relax was a bar and all that it had was beer.

That was the year that there was an oil embargo on Serbia and a friend (who figures occasionally in these pages although not as much as she did a good while ago and for the benefit of regular readers of this rubbish, didn’t feature in these pages anything as often as she deserved) and I were standing on a railway bridge over the main railway line from Thessaloniki watching oil train after oil train after oil train heading north.

Greece’s imports of oil tripled during that period.

Claire came on line too and we had a chat for a while. She’s been seriously ill for the last three or four weeks with something that has compounded her underlying health problems but she’s slowly feeling better and in a couple of weeks she might be up and about.

As I have said before … "and on many occasions too" – ed … we’re all pretty much of a similar age and we are all growing old and infirm together.

Something else that I did was to finish off all the notes for the radio programme that I’ve been preparing. I’ll dictate that tonight before I go to bed.

Much of the rest of the time has been spent trying to bring order into chaos and tidying up some of the directories. That’s an ongoing process what with having to merge 30 years-worth of hard drives together and it won’t be finished any time soon either.

There was time to have a good play on the guitars too. A couple of songs that bring back memories of those 3 missing nights in the High Arctic were of course THE FIRST SONG THAT WE SANG TOGETHER.

This was also ANOTHER ONE that we worked on together on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR

There were plenty of others too so I’m going to restart my playlist. I even managed to find time to work on the bass lines for WIND UP and, of course, not to mention the track WITH THE GREATEST OPENING 1:20 EVER

Anyway, that’s enough nostalgia for now. I can’t see me ever playing in public again if I can’t ever hold a guitar and I can’t stand up And sitting here with a guitar on my knee means that I can’t sing.

And even if I could sing sitting down with a guitar on my knee, I no longer have the breathing to do it.

What kind of state am I in?

Tea tonight was a breaded quorn fillet with salad and backed potato, delicious as usual. And now I’m going to dictate the radio notes and go to bed.

Tomorrow I have pizza dough to make and I intend to attack the bread and butter pudding to see what damage I can do to that so a good lie-in will do me good.

But we’ll have to see about that. It would be nice if some nice people came to visit me rather than the endless stream of relatives who keep turning up.

Even The Vanilla Queen coming along TO HAUNT ME IN MY DREAMS would be a great improvement. I wonder how things are these days on Baffin Island.

Friday 26th May 2023 – MY LUNCH TODAY …

… was delicious.

Down at the supermarket in town this morning they had some fresh broccoli on special offer so I bought a chunk, trimmed off the florets, blanched them and then stuck them in the freezer for a later date, now that I have room.

There was a nice, thick, chunky stalk left over so I made a soup. I fried an onion and garlic in olive oil with some cumin and coriander, diced a couple of small potatoes and diced the stalk, added it to the mixture to fry and when it was all soft, added some of the water in which I’d blanched the broccoli.

After about 20 minutes’ worth of simmering, I whizzed it with the whizzer and ate it with some crusty bread.

And I’ll do that again!

But here I am, waxing lyrical about going to the shops and buying some broccoli as if it’s the highlight of my life. One of those memory things popped up on my social network, reminding me that 11 years ago today I was out on an icebreaker as we smashed our way through the pack-ice on our way back to Natashquan after taking relief supplies out to THAT ISOLATED ISLAND off the “forgotten coast” of Québec.

The moral of this story is “whenever an opportunity comes your way, grab it with both hands and go right to the end. You’ll never know if you’ll have another chance, and you never know what the future has in store for you”.

While we’re on the subject of the High Arctic … “well, one of us is” – ed … the first track to come round on the playlist this morning, after what I had said yesterday, was THE VANILLA QUEEN.

It’s been a long time since that “fascinating lady” has been to “haunt me in my dreams” after “the bright, nocturnal Vanilla Queen” and I stood together on the bow of THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR watching the midnight sun in the Davis Strait. I was never the same again.

And while we’re on the subject of the High Arctic … “well, one of us is” – ed … the lovely Dyan Birch, whose voice is up there with Kate Bush, Julianne Regan and Annie Haslam, put in an appearance shortly afterwards.

She was well-know of course for her stint in Kokomo but before that she sang in an obscure Liverpool group called Arrival and their first album was one of the very first albums that I ever bought all those years ago.

The song that featured on the playlist was HEY THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE and I picked that as one of the ones to be broadcast in one of my radio programmes in due course.

It’s the song that came into my head up in the High Arctic as I watched “someone” walk from out on this desolate windswept and icebound airstrip to her aeroplane without waving or looking back and I thought to myself “hey, that’s no way to say goodbye!” but a few years later when I was saying goodbye to someone else on another airport, I suddenly realised the reason why some goodbyes have to be said in that way.

Samuel Gurney Cresswell, the artist and Arctic explorer, was once asked to explain Robert McClure’s loss of nerve after their dreadful experience in the moving pack-ice not too far from the first airport that I first mentioned. He replied that a voyage to the High Arctic “ought to make anyone a wiser and better man”.

However it didn’t work for me. One day I’ll write up the story of those three missing days.

But that’s enough maudlin nostalgia for the moment. We all know that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Let’s turn our attention instead to this morning, and the fact that one more I was up and about (in principle because I was far from awake) before the alarm went off.

But a shower slowly brought me round and I put the washing on the go. Oh! The excitement! It’s almost as riveting as the day that I had when the highlight was taking out the rubbish.

There was plenty of time before I had to go anywhere so I transcribed the dictaphone notes from the night. This was another one of these work dreams again, and I’m having plenty of those. I was working in an office but I wasn’t very productive and I wasn’t doing very much at all. Mostly wasting time. The Germans invaded the country and occupied the town where our office was situated. They ordered most people to leave. Those people gathered their things together and started to set off. At that moment I came back into the building having missed everything that was going on, saw them going, and said something like “goodbye, my colleagues. I don’t know how many of us will meet again after this thing has happened. Wishing everyone the best”. I’d heard some stories that some farmers had been far too friendly with the invaders and denounced a couple of people already. So we sat and started on what was going to be a very long ordeal.

But invaders again? We had them the other night, didn’t we?

Then there was something else on these lines. Someone ended up sending something or other to the office where we were working, as a kind-of sign of discontent but I can’t remember anything about it.

I also spent much of the night in company with a young girl and I wish that I knew who she was. We were talking about the area up at the back of Barrow, places like that. I mentioned a fishing port that was formerly very busy. When the fishing died out they came and moved some of the railway lines that connect the port network to the main line but left a diesel shunter behind that was now stranded on the dock and can’t be moved. We were chatting about all kinds of interesting things. Right at the end there was some kind of problem about her having to pay her rent on her little apartment so I suggested that she comes to live in mine. This was another one of those really nice, warm comfortable dreams that I wished would go on for ever and I don’t have too many of those.

But seriously, who would want a relationship with me?

It was a slow stagger down to the doctor’s and I didn’t have long to wait to see him. But as I thought the other day, he confirmed that with this series of injections, there’s nowhere else to go. He wrote out everything that I needed, wrote out the prescriptions, and that was that.

And that got me thinking.

It’s not the first time that I’ve mentioned it but a few years ago I was standing ON THE CREST OF SOUTH PASS, the gap that the “trails west” emigrants used when crossing the Continental Divide where to the east the waters drain into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, and to the west they drain into the Pacific.

It’s the most peaceful place on earth and I want to go back. I’m getting itchy feet again.

At the Carrefour round the corner I bought the broccoli, some mushrooms, some potatoes and a couple more of the small peppers. Now I know that I can freeze them, i might as well put a stock in the freezer now that there’s room.

Have you any idea how much a month’s supply of Aranesp costs? You really don’t want to know. And because it’s not on the list of GP-prescribed medication I have to pay for it up front and claim it back from my health insurance. That will hurt for a while.

So loaded up with a ton of medication (I’m singlehandedly keeping the French pharmaceutical industry afloat and they won’t ‘arf miss me when nature takes its toll) and having to go back tomorrow for some more, I crawled back up the hill onto my rock where I made my soup, had lunch and then … errr … relaxed. This stagger back takes its toll of me.

This afternoon I finished off choosing the music for the next batch of radio programmes but I’ve run aground at the moment. There’s a French musician called Miquette Giraudy who collaborated with Steve Hillside-Village and she wrote and played on several tracks. But you try to find them. None of my usual sources came up with the goods. The best example of her work that I can find so far is the album on which she collaborated with Hillage after he left “Gong”.

Both Alison and Liz were on line later so I ended up chatting to both of them. Alison was telling me more detail relating to our chat yesterday and Liz was showing me photos of her little week away in the Marches.

Tea was chips (now that I have some potatoes) done in the air fryer, with salad and some of the veggie balls. So you might say that part of my meal was a load of balls this evening. But then again, you might not.

Shopping tomorrow, not that I need very much at all but I have to go through the motions. I’ll go to LeClerc of course to see what they have to say for themselves, and I’lll also go for a prowl around at Noz. There’s usually a few surprises there and it’s nice to buy something different. It helps to shake up the diet.

And then after lunch a walk into town to pick up the Aranesp, which means that in the afternoon I’ll be crashing out. Terrible, isn’t it?

Monday 8th October 2018 – SO MUCH FOR …

… the alarm this morning!

My telephone decided to do an update during the night and as a result it was waiting for me to restart it this morning. At … errr … 08:15 or thereabouts.

And it also took me until 09:00 to leave the bed either. I was making the most of it.

Just by way of a change though I had ended up with an early night. Flat out at 22:30 and Gone With The Wind in an instant.

And, would you believe, just by way of another change, back in the High Arctic. One might say that it’s all left quite an impression on me, mightn’t one?

Now here’s an exciting thing though. It was the final night of our trip before we were all due to break up in the morning. And just for a change we weren’t on the Good Ship Ve… … errr … Ocean Endeavour but somewhere else completely. And I was sharing a room with someone else, something that regulär readers of this rubbish will recall is highly unlikely indeed. This guy was of the “gung ho, full steam ahead” characteristics and he had changed all of the beds and bedding around in our room. My bed was in a different position, all of this kind of thing, and he had done it all in something of rather a strange way. But anyway, to cut a long story short … "Thank God" – ed … like The Knights Of The Round Table we had all been our separate ways, and we all had to meet up to come back to make our final reports the next morning. We were all sitting down in the lounge relaxing and who should come over to me but The Vanilla Queen. And it WAS her too. Not only did it look like her but she talked exactly in the same way with exactly the same accent that she had. She spoke to me too, which is most unlikely, and I couldn’t quite understand what it was that she was saying. So I arose and went over to her (which I wouldn’t normally have done) and asked her to repeat it. She replied “I don’t think that John Shearing needs to know anything about too much, but I want YOU to do the final debriefing and to tell everyone where we had been and what we were doing and all this kind of thing so that they could bring their notes of their holiday all up to date. I want YOU to do it”.
And to be quite honest, I was so amazed by this discussion that I awoke bolt-upright – 23:58 it was – wide awake, totally astonished. I went and tracked down the dictaphone, even managed to change the batteries in it correctly, and dictated the details so that I wouldn’t forget them.

And that wasn’t all the excitement either.

I’ve no idea who is was with whom I was rambling later on last night but she was certainly female and attractive, and she was driving a small car of the Austin 7 variety. We were having to travel somewhere and in order to do so we had to pass through a mountain range. There were two ways to pass through this range and they bifurcated at a small village. So we stopped in this village to fuel up and she tipped into the tank the contents of a metal can. I thought to myself that there wasn’t enough fuel in the can to take us to our destination and the nearest petrol station was a really good walk away. But to my surprise, where we had parked actually had a fuel pump and some woman there put a couple more gallons into the car. We then set off down the left-hand road at this fork and I thought to myself that this is a far quicker way than trekking though the countryside and little paths that I usually took and I wondered why I didn’t know this road. And we eventually turned up at a mountain pass that we have visited on nocturnal rambles on numerous occasions – usually on skiing trips and the like in the middle of winter.

As an aside, I should perhaps remind my readers (both of you) that I have indeed been asked if I am troubled by my nocturnal voyages and some of the situations in which I find myself.
My response was “definitely not. I actually quite enjoy them.”

After breakfast I loitered around for a while, including a session on the bass (because I’m starting to pic it up again after my voyage) and then set down to do some work.

Tidying up in the living room in fact. I need to make this place look much more like a home and make it clean. After a while I do have to say that it looks a little more like it, although there’s always room for improvement.

Next thing was, having been totally dismayed by the rubbishy photos that came out of my voyage to the High Arctic, I bit the bullet and ordered a couple of new lenses for the big Nikon. How I wish that I had done that a month or so before I had set off, rather than three weeks after I had come home.

And after that, I had a little … errr … relax.

TOTGA was on line later and so we had a little chat and then I went off and made my butties. There I was, sitting on the wall with my butties, my book and a lizard in the sunlight. It wasn’t warm but it was beautiful all the same.

Afterwards, I went off into town. With the possibility of a visitor arriving in early course, I need to know what activities are available. There’s a good Tourist Info place in town so my afternoon walk was down there to collect some leaflets.

Back here, I attacked some more photos but I couldn’t keep going and at about 17:20 I went ant lay down on the bed.

1:20 I was out for. 18:40 I finally came too and was able to carry on with what I had been doing. And that took me up to tea time.

While I had been going through the freezer I came across a pie that was left over from earlier in the year. So that disappeared into my stomach accompanied by some steamed veg cooked in the electric steamer and gravy.

Outside, i went for my evening walk around the headland, totally alone. Not another soul about anywhere although there were a couple of kids with scooters away on the car park.

Later I had another chat with TOTGA, with Liz and with Josée and then a little more work.

Now it’s bedtime and there will be an alarm tomorrow, I hope. Then it’s back to the grind again.

Sunday 7th October 2018 – I’VE BEEN LUCKY …

US St Pairiase ET.S. Du Terregate Et Du Beuvron football stade croissant st pair sur mer manche normandy france… again today with the football.

This afternoon I went to the Stade Croissant at St Pair to watch US St Pairiase play ET.S. Du Terregate Et Du Beuvron in the Manche District League division 2. Cold and windy, but at least it was dry. But there’s a covered stand at the Croissant just in case and it’s as well to be insured.

Despite the poor conditions, this was yet another exciting match. A bit short on skill but plenty of effort and the game rolled from end to end.

The attacks and midfields were about even, but while Terregate’s defence was far better, the St Pairiaise goalkeeper was in inspired form and on one occasion made a superb triple-save from the Terregate attack.

But despite the really good Terregate defending, there was just one occasion when the St Pairaise attack got through and they made it count.

Later on in the final 30 minute the temperature of the match escalated and we had some thumping challenges and a few heated arguments. One St Päiraise defender was dismissed for a late challenge, a decision that I considered to be rather harsh but they still managed to hang on to their lead.

All in all, I’ve had a really exciting weekend at the football.

And on the subject of exciting times, last night wasn’t as good as the previous night or two, which was rather a disappointment. In bed quite late, but awake at 08:00. We aren’t having that – at least on a Sunday, so I turned over and went back to sleep. 09:00 wasn’t much better but that was about me finished for the night so at about 09:45 I arose from the dead.

Despite the brevity of the night’s repose, I’d been on my travels. Back to the High Arctic yet again (this really IS preying on my mind, isn’t it?) and the Good Ship Ve … errr … Ocean Endeavour. We were all on there, saying our goodbyes to each other and slowly dispersing, until in the end I was hovering over the stern of the ship about 50 feet up in the air looking at the last person remaining there. I couldn’t see whether it was or not she who has become famous as The Vanilla Queen, because she kept her head bowed. But the interesting thing about this is not the fact that it might have been The Vanilla Queen, but the fact that even though I was well away in the Arms of Morpheus, the fact that it might have been her was of interest to me.
So tell me why, nocturnal Vanilla Queen
You haunt me, even in my dreams

I’m clearly feeling the strain, aren’t I?
And later, I was away again. In a big Ford SUV type of vehicle, all black except for gold doors, exactly the type of vehicle and the colour scheme that several police forces in North America use. However, although it was me driving it, I wasn’t in it (if that makes sense), my spiritual sense was in another vehicle with my brother (don’t ask me why because I don’t know either) and Darren, Rachel’s husband. They were driving through this North American city that bore more than just a passing resemblance to the Rue de la Loi in Brussels outside the Justus Lipsius building, and I was driving aroud there in the police vehicle. They had tried … well, not to escape, but to plan their route so that it didn’t cross mine, but I managed to intercept them and when they finally saw me from their side window, they did pull up to find out what was going on. I pulled up on the other side of a crossroads, to walk back I suppose, but I didn’t even manage to leave the car before I was wide awake and it had all disappeared.

Having a few things to do today, it was rather late when I sat down to breakfast. And afterwards I had a couple of hours on the laptop sorting out a pile of e-mails from many years ago, looking for e phone number that I was sure that I had been given at one time. It took a while but eventually I came across it.

And then I sorted through a pile of photos that had been accumulating over the past couple of years. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that I have started this project on several occasions and run aground each time. But I have to press on.

It’s Sunday, so tea was a vegan pizza.

night port de granville harbour manche normandy franceAnd then I went for a walk around the headland. It’s good to get back into my old habits. Including, I’m sorry to say, a little departure away with the fairies after the football.

There wasn’t anyone else around this evening so I was all on my own.

And so I spent a lot of time overlooking the harbour to see what was going on.

night port de granville harbour manche normandy franceThe answer is “not very much”. The tide isn’t in far enough for the fishing boats.

There’s one of the Ile de Chausey ferries over there on the right, tied up to the illuminated landing stage.

That’s really all there was of note, so after taking a couple of photos I turned round and headed off back home.

It’s Monday tomorrow so back at work and back with an alarm again. So I’m going to have an early night.

Tomorrow I’ll be tidying up because I have heard that on Tuesday I might be having visitors.

Tuesday 18th September 2018 – AND SO I WENT …

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.

… to bed quite early (and missed all of the excitement too!) and crashed out almost immediately. The record that I was playing Colosseum Live"now THERE’S a surprise" – ed … was still playing when I briefly awoke, so I quickly turned that off and fell back into the Arms of Morpheus.

It didn’t take me long to go off on my travels and a big Hello! to The Vanilla Queen who made her debut. “Vanilla Queen” indeed, living up to her alter ego! The stress is clearly getting to me, that’s for sure.

With having to be up and about so early I was awake at about 04:30. And again at about 05:15. I couldn’t go back to sleep after that and so I Arose from the Dead and started to tidy up and pack.

We’ve now entered Kangerlussuaq, the “Big Fjord” and so I took a few photos. No sunrise today unfortunately and not really all that much else to see. So I toddled off to breakfast where I had a lengthy chat with Dave about Glasgow and GreenocK. Heather came to join us too for a short while.

Afterwards I finished packing my possessions and then I had to wait around for ages to see what was happening.

Before I could check out. We received a USB stick with all of the voyage details thereupon, and I was able to go back upstairs to upload the photos of Strawberry Moose in his kayak.

Eventually we were called down to the zodiacs and were transported to the shore. We passed by Linda, the cruise director, and I’m afraid that I couldn’t resist it. I said to her “I suppose you’ll give me that e-mail address tomorrow”.

I really am wicked! But serve her right.

A fleet of buses was awaiting us – some modern monstrous machines and also a couple of really elderly vehicles, including a Kassböhrer-Setra and, much to my surprise, a DAB-bodied 1984 Leyland bus.

We went past the ruins of Kellyville, an old American radar base and then up the hill to the old American submarine radio base. Long-since dismantled, you could see how tall the antennae must have been by reference to the concrete base and the size of the cable stays. They were massive.

Much to my surprise the diesel generators were still present – a couple of really old straight-eights. I was about to give them a good look-over but before I could do so we were summoned back to the bus.

Back down the hill again and past the cupola for the gun that defended the port installations and the runway for the airstrip at Kangerlussuaq in World War II. In (and out) of the town to look at the Pride and Joy of the urban area – the new bridge that replaced the one that was washed out in an ice-flood in 2012.

We were told of the volume of water that passes through the bridge at the height of the melt-water season and I can’t remember now what our driver said it was but it was certainly impressive. Today we had a floating plaque of ice that was jammed up against the culvert with all of the water passing underneath.

He showed us the site of the old bridge and explained that if we were to dig down in the collapsed morass we would probably be able to recover a digger that was swept away in the confusion.

Up to the top of the mountain on the other side.

There was a beautiful view of Kangerlussuaq from the top, as well as the old radio and radar installations from the Cold War. Some of the equipment is now utilised by the Danes to pick up the data that is transmitted from weather satellites that pass overhead.

And I found some beautiful glacier-polished rock right on top of the mountain. It looked really splendid.

Back down to the airport – the largest in Greenland with the longest runway – another Cold War legacy. Plenty of time to kill before take-off so I went to watch the Air Greenland planes take off. This is the only airport in which the big jets can land so they unload and turn round here and there are endless shuttles of smaller planes that feed the passengers in and out and on and beyond.

I took the opportunity to eat my packed lunch too. Not that it took me all that long. Laszlo and I clearly have different ideas about the size of my appetite.

Still hordes of people congregating around so I spent quite a while chatting to Sherman, Michael, Christopher and Tiffany. They were sharing out the crisps which I thought was quite nice of them.

Eventually we made our way to the departure lounge and I had another stand-off in what laughingly passes as “security”.

“Empty your pockets!” barked a woman with a badge.
“Would you mind saying ‘please’ to me when you address me” I replied.
This led to an extremely warm 5 minutes until she buckled under.

And now our plane is 90 minutes late. isn’t that a surprise? It’s so late that the second plane has in fact arrived first.

I thought that it would be absolutely awful watching the others depart before us, but they sat for half an hour on the tarmac without moving – and then the rood opened, the stairs came out and the pilot descended.

The cynic in me started to work out all kinds of depressing scenarios and in the words of JRR Tolkein “all are dark and unpleasant”.

We were later told a story of what had happened. Apparently some kind of aeroplane had come to some kind of grief on the runway. Our plane couldn’t land and so had flown back to Iqaluit.

But none of this explains why plane 2 had managed to land on the runway, and why another aeroplane from Air Greenland had managed to land. And why they hadn’t grabbed one of the towing dollies that I had seen in action earlier and yanked the plane off the runway.

20-odd years of working in the tourism industry has imbued me with a desperate sense of cynicism that will one day surely be my undoing. However, I am guided by the comment that “a cynic is someone who sees things as they are, not as they are meant to be”.

And seeing the n°2 aeroplane take off before our (earlier) one had landed did nothing to dispel my feelings.

The tour company offered us a meal of sorts. And after much binding in the marsh they managed to rustle up a salad for me. A blind man would have been pleased to see it, I suppose.

But the biggest laugh is yet to come.

After the meal they gave me a bottle of water – unopened and sealed – out or the restaurant so I strode back into the waiting area. And they wouldn’t let me pass with it and we had quite an argument about it.

But behind me were the tour managers with 200 of the identical bottles of water and they passed those into the security area, right enough. And so we had another argument about that too.

In the meantime, the clock in the waiting room had ceased to function. That’s always a handy stand-by when people are feeling the drag of waiting around. They don’t notice the passage of time if the clock isn’t working.

The plane finally arrived at about 20:35 – a good 15 minutes after the “latest update” time and well over 4 hours after its due DEPARTURE time. And in the meantime Sherwin had given us an impromptu concert to pass the time. One suspects that a certain well-filled brown envelope had changed hands at some point. We even had Latonia singing along.

And once the aeroplane had landed, they started up the clock again.

I really must develop a more positive attitude, as I have been saying for quite a while.

Departure time should have been 16:30. We took to the air at 22:15. That was me thoroughly depressed.

What depressed me even more was when I talked to the cabin crew. They told me that there had been a “maintenance issue” and that, together with the associated paperwork, had delayed the take-off

Clearly someone is being … errrr … economical with the truth somewhere.

And I felt really sorry for The Vanilla Queen. She lives in Iqaluit but was having to take the charter flight to Toronto, and then make her way home via Montreal. So where do you think that we stopped for a refuelling break?

Much to my surprise they actually did have a vegan meal on board. And even more surprisingly, it was quite reasonable too, as far as airline meals go.

But that was as good as it got. My good humour that had been slowly disappearing over the last few days – well, the last vestiges have disappeared into the ether now. As Doctor Spooner once famously said, “I feel like a hare with a sore bed”.

I tried to settle down to sleep but no chance of that. I shall have to stay wide-awake with only my good humour to keep me company.

I don’t think.

Friday 7th September 2018 – AND THERE I WAS …

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.

… lying on my palliasse wondering whether I ought to heave myself out of my stinking pit.

I’d had a really bad night. For some reason I was very sensitive to the engine noise. It was constantly changing pitch and consequently constantly keeping me awake all through the night and I can’t recall if I ever managed to drop off to sleep.

And as the 06:00 alarm suddenly started to sound, a voice shouted down the loudspeaker system “Polar Bears at 3 o’clock”.

In my half-awakened state I thought to myself that he’s a good few hours late with this announcement, but then it clicked and I grabbed the camera, dashed out of my room, bumped into a lady, she screamed so I dashed back into my room and put on my clothes and then dashed back onto the starboard beam.

At first I thought that it was two polar bears on the ice floe but as events unfolded, I noticed that there were three. A mother and two cubs.

Mum was in position by a seal hole awaiting breakfast, and the two cubs were in their snow-bank den waiting for mum to come back with the grub.

She was totally unperturbed by the passing of the vessel even though it would keep away the seals, but the thing about living in the Arctic is patience. Never mind the “Ohh God, give me patience. And hurry!” – I once heard a delightful story about a group of Inuit who went to the Arctic meadows on Ungava for some hay, found that the grass hadn’t grown enough, so they pitched their tents there and waited.

And this was exactly what mummy was doing, perched by the seal hole. Not pitching her tent waiting for the hay to grow of course, but you know what I mean.

The photos are unfortunately rubbish but then it’s with the Nikon 1’s light-hungry zoom lens in the half-light from a moving ship when I’m not even half-awake. What did you expect? David Bailey?

After taking a score or so of photos, I went back to my room for my medication and other stuff.

And while I was sorting out my laptop, it reminded me of last night’s later events. The bearing on the binnacle was 121°, so we are going in the opposite direction. 0° is North, 90° is East, and so we are heading more-or-less south-east right now, back down Lancaster Sound.

Breakfast was in company of a couple of travellers who seem to have taken a shine to me, and I’ve no idea why because I’m not usually the kind of person whom others like, and we had a really good chat about this and that.

Not about the other though. That’s a rather sore point right now the way that things are. I think that Strawberry Moose is having more luck than me in that respect.

Later I was up on the bridge admiring the pack ice away in the distance to the south, and looking at the beautiful scenery of this corner of Devon Island. I’ve no idea where we are going next, and I’m not convinced that the crew and the captain know either.

Mind you I did manage to speak to a member of the crew about the ship that I keep on seeing. Apparently there’s another ship – the Fram – that’s loitering around the ice edge waiting for a gap to miraculously appear;

We’ve seen several icebergs go drifting past, some of them extremely impressive but none more so than this one with a hole in the middle, like a floating polo mint.It’s apparently called a keyhole iceberg. The hole is caused by some kind of subterranean river in the glacier

And while I was photographing that iceberg I noticed out of the corner of my eye a ship away in the distance. This time, it was no problem in the light to photograph it at distance and to crop it down to see what it was.

It’s indeed a Canadian icebreaker of the kind that would be on stand-by duty around here to watch out for icebergs and also for ships that might risk running headlong into the pack-ice. There are several ships in the channel and also several communities that have not yet received their winter provisions, so with the seas icing up so quickly already, they will be in for a tough time if the icebreakers can’t open up a channel.

We had a couple of discussion session, several of which didn’t interest me very much so I didn’t take part in them, and the one on the story of Franklin’s expeditions and the Erebus and Terror stories, but I didn’t really learn all that much that I didn’t already know.

I did however manage to buttonhole the camera guy and we discussed the camera, the images and my technique.

He had a good look at everything and had a few things to say about it.

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with my technique except that with it being a lightweight camera, I’m pressing too hard on the switch and making the camera shake at the crucial moment.

Secondly, the images come out the same on his laptop so it’s not a fault of my laptop,

As for the quality of the images, that’s as good it can be. So the fault lies in the camera itself. Not that it’s a bad camera, but simply that it’s not designed to do what I want to do with it and I’m pushing it to the limit of its technical capabilities and even beyond.

It was then lunchtime so I nipped off and had a salad. And to be quite honest I spent more time talking than eating. The yoga assistant is a big fan of 70s rock music so I’ve invited her to come and listen to some of the stuff that I have on my laptop.

It sure beats etchings, doesn’t it?

On a totally different tack, does anyone still remember our trip to Red Bay in Labrador
and the Bernier?

There’s a girl on board ship – one of the staff – called Bernier so I asked her what she knew about the ship. Nothing whatever, she told me, but she did know that there was a very famous Canadian sea captain called Bernier and one of the pages on the Canadian passport depicts him.

Another member of staff told me that Bernier (the captain, not the ship) worked in the High Arctic and it was he who actually claimed Bylot Island – which we will be passing – for Canada in 1906 and he had his crew carve something emblematic on a cliff face.

I’m writing this now because everyone else is outside looking at a bird colony. But as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, the only birds in which I have any interest won’t be found clinging to a rock in the High Arctic.

And this is a fine time for the battery in the camera to start to go flat, and we’re off out in an hour or so. I’ve had to bung it on charge and of course, it’s now that we’re starting to sail through the ice. Good job that I have the phone handy, although what the quality might be like is anyone’s guess.

But it actually worked out, because the sea was so rough at this point that the water in the heated pool was going everywhere except where it was supposed to go, and I was able to take a few videos of it.

The phone didn’t last too long though. There was a huge iceberg away in the distance – more like a large sheet of float actually – and the phone camera will never do justice to that, so I’ve had to go down and fetch the Nikon.

They are still trying to do their best to entertain us seeing as everything that is planned is falling apart. And so we had afternoon tea while we played a kind of game where we had to find out bits and pieces about each other. I sort-of took part in it in a half-hearted way because I’m not really in to being sociable as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

There’s a National Park at Tay Bay on Bylot Island which is on our route and it’s been decided that we will go for an evening ramble around there.

We needed a briefing from Parks Canada (done vitually) before we could go and, much to my surprise, we were first to leave the boat. I had to get a wiggle on to get changed into my winter gear, and then there was an almighty panic as I couldn’t find my badge.

Nevertheless I did manage to find it and we struggled ashore onto our beach where the perimeter of our walk was guarded by Polar Bear watchers.

Strawberry Moose enjoyed his ride in a zodiac and he made many new friends. Plenty of photo opportunities for him too.

Introducing new species onto an island here is definitely not allowed and there are no moose here. But I shall be wondering what scientists will be thinking when in 1000 years time they are analysing polar bears with antlers or moose in white coats with claws and teeth.

And for me. I had a good walk around to kill the time, which the cynic inside me tells me is the reason for this stop. There were some exciting views of all kinds of things – nothing that I found really interesting though.

There’s a tent ring on the shore but that’s believed to be contemporary and not historical.

As an aside, anything over 50 years old is classed as historical and so that includes a great many of the passengers on board the ship. Me especially. I’m feeling like 150 years old right now with the weight of the world resting on my shoulders.

And there were several icebergs of some beauty. I even saw the sun, such as it was, disappear down behind the mountains and that was fairly spectacular too.

But I do have to say that, much as I enjoyed the pleasant walk, I’ve come here to do much more than this and it’s leaving me somewhat disappointed.

One thing though really stuck in my mind. There’s a young Inuit boy – probably aged about 20 but then again what would I know – on board the ship and I’ve had many a chat with him. He comes from the area and he was pointing out some of the glaciers to me. he was saying that even in his short life the glaciers have receded dramatically and how he was fearing for his grandchildren.

He told me a story about how, even today, he will come over for a large lump of glacier to take home to melt down as water. This ice fell as rain thousands of years ago when there was no pollution in the air and so is as fresh and pure as anything that you might find. It makes the tea taste magnificent, so he said.

It was a wet ride back to the ship, with His Nibs safely inside his plastic bag. And then there was an enormous queue at the boot-washing station as someone apparently decided to do a week’s washing.

A hot shower and a wash of the undies was called for, and then I came down to tea. In a change to my usual habits, I have decided to mingle with different people at mealtimes and chat about different themes seeing as I seem to be stuck in a big rut right now.

And a good chat I had too. We talked about exchanges as students, Switzerland, the Northern Lights and primitive aircraft. All in all, quite an agreeable time and I shall have to do more of this.

It’s quite late now. We didn’t return to the ship from the shore until late and tea was thus even later. I’ll loiter around for a while and then wander off. I doubt that I’ll be around until midnight or later this evening. I need to bring at least some kind of semblance of order into my life.

One thing that has tired me out though is that I had a very emotional, disagreeable and stressful task to do, one which needs to be done and done quickly too before things take a turn in escalating out of hand.

Rather like MacBeth and his “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

This afternoon the opportunity presented itself so I bit the bullet and did it. The sooner I do it, the sooner it’s over.

It didn’t work out how I hoped that it would, but that would have really been clutching at straws. And in any case, it’s all my own fault for not listening to myself and all of my best counsels in the first place. Proverbs 19:21 is what I should have kept in my mind, isn’t it?

It’s not the first time that I’ve ended up in a mess like this. Far from it. Anyone would think that I would be used to it, but not at all. I fall into the trap on every occasion and it never turns out well. I always start off with the best of intentions, it all somehow goes wrong, I always end up saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment and it never ever comes out as I intend it to. In fact, usually exactly the opposite.

I am reminded of Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon and “In the heat of the action men are apt to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away” and it happens to me all too often.

I really shouldn’t be let out without a keeper. But then, who would want to be responsible for keeping me?

Wednesday 5th September 2018 – THUS ENDS THE WEB

*************** THE IMAGES ***************

There are over 3,000 of them and due to the deficiencies of the equipment they all need a greater or lesser amount of post-work. And so you won’t get to see them for a while.

You’ll need to wait til I return home and get into my studio and start to go through them. And it will be a long wait. But I’ll keep you informed after I return.

Despite it being 00:15 when I finally toddled off to bed, it was yet another miserable night. Not that I didn’t sleep of course – far from it in fact – but I was wide awake again at 04:30.

At 05:30 I gave up the struggle and after the medication routine, came upstairs. Too dark as yet to take any real photographs which is a shame, but I did the best that I could;

It’s also really foggy outside yet again. I hope that this means that our trip ashore isn’t cancelled yet again.

Anyway, in the comfort of the ship’s lounge, with no-one else about at all, I did some more work, catching up on where I’d left off a while back, as well as organising a few photos for His Nibs.

Breakfast as usual and then we had to organise ourselves for our day out.

We’re just off the coast of Devon Island, the world’s largest uninhabited island at 59,000 km². It wasn’t always uninhabited. The Thule people had various settlements here and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had an outpost here and it was these that we had come to see.

Mind you, it might not be possible to see anything in this kind of weather because not only do we have a fog we have a blinding snowstorm and it’s going to be quite uncomfortable out there today.

We’ve been divided up into three groups – the advanced hikers who are going off to visit the two sites and climb the mountain pass in between, the intermediate group who are going to walk to the two sites but have a boat ride in between, and the easy people who are just going to be dropped off on the beach for a wander around.

Had there been any archaeological ruins up on top or had there been any chance of having a good view, I might possibly have forced my way up to the top. But in this weather I’m not going to even consider it.

Instead, seeing as I want to visit the two sites, I’m going to go the intermediate way.

So we changed into our wet-weather and winter clothing (and I still think that telephone boxes would be appropriate for this kind of thing) and boarded the boat.

I took Strawberry Moose with me so that he could have a good photo opportunity. One of the cleaners very kindly found me a large bin liner in which to carry him out of the rain.

Having organised ourselves on shore eventually at Morrin Point (whoever Morrin was when he was at home if he ever was), we set off. The experts on this trip were scattered around the various sites of interest and we started off by being given a lecture on lichens. Not the kind of thing that would be of much interest to me but nevertheless it’s all included in the deal.

The experts weren’t the only people to be scattered around. Our group perimeter was constantly guarded by trained polar bear observers. We had to stay within the perimeter and not move out. And the bear observers had to keep the bears outside.

Not that we saw any, but that’s a situation that won’t last over the next couple of weeks.

Next stop was much more exciting.

There’s a Thule village with several houses dating from the 14th or 15th Century here on the headland and this is what we had come to see.

Thule people had several criteria that decided where they were going to build their houses. A piece of flat land, some shelter from the winds and a view of the sea were things that were so important to them.

And this is exactly what we have here. All three criteria come in to play.

There’s a walrus haul-out here on an island in the bay, and there were several meat-stores that were clearly (according to the archaeologists) for the storage of walrus meat.

They kept it in here until they needed it, and it was probably well-putrefied by the time that it came to being used, but to disguise the smell the Thule stuffed the cracks of the walrus cache with aromatic herbs.

As for the houses, they were stone and sod, with some kind of support structure such as whale bones that would support a covering made of walrus hide. That’s very thick and, of course, weather-proof.

All visible trace of that is now long-gone but no archaeological excavation has taken place at this site as yet to give any definite opinion of what went on here.

From here back to the zodiacs to go on the next stage of the journey, watching the advanced hikers disappearing off into the distance.

Just down the bay there was another beach and there we alighted and had to trek up a hill. And in the boggy terrain, the wind and the rain, I was feeling the strain I can promise you that. I was glad that I didn’t go on the advanced hike.

From the top there was a good view of the old abandoned Royal Canadian Mounted Police post.

The story behind this post is all to do with the question of Sovereignty in the High Arctic.

Much of this area was explored and claimed by the British until about 1880 and then given to Canada, who chose not to continue the explorations.

As a result, we had other nations such as the Americans and Danes exploring the High Arctic in this region and there was a risk that they would claim the Arctic islands for themselves. As a result, it was necessary to establish some permanent settlements

As part of this process, here at Dundas Harbour in the 1920s the Royal Canadian Mounted Police established a Post here and it remained active until the funding crisis of the Great Depression brought about its closure.

The Mounties were supported by a few Inuit Special constables and their families and hence a small settlement sprang up. Some Inuit were resettled here from Cape Dorset but they didn’t stay long.

The job of the Mounties was to set up cairns on the outlying islands to claim them for Canada and to generally keep an eye out for interlopers.

But it was a lonely life and hard on the inhabitants. One Mountie committed suicide and another one, who had gone off hunting walrus, was later discovered dying with a gunshot wound, although no-one was able to work out what had happened.

They are buried in a small cemetery up on the hillside at the back of the post. This is claimed by some to be one of the most northerly Christian cemeteries in the world

After the end of World War II the Cold War caused the post to be reactivated, but it only lasted a couple of years. By 1951 the post had closed down again, this time for good.

Strawberry Moose arranged to have himself photographed here a couple of times for the record. And quite right too.

After that, we all headed back to the zodiacs and retraced our steps to the ship. And not before time either because in the three hours that we had been ashore, the bay was starting to ice up.

Once I’d divested myself of my wet-weather and winter gear, I came up to my room and had a nice hot shower and washed my undies. They’ll be dry pretty quickly because the cabins are quite hot when they switch on the heating.

Lunch came along too after this. And today they managed to find me some chick peas to go with my salad. That was very nice.

And I had to laugh (even though I know that I shouldn’t) at The Vanilla Queen. She went up there for her food and some woman came up to talk to her. Even as The Vanilla Queen was collecting her food, this woman insisted on continuing the conversation. The Vanilla Queen then started to eat her food with her fingers but the woman went on and on (and on).

Eventually she said “well, I suppose that I’d better let you eat your meal” and then carried on the chat for another 5 minutes. By this time The Vanilla Queen was totally frustrated and I was almost in tears of laughter – which I know that I shouldn’t have been, but there you are.

This afternoon we started a series of lectures but the first one was interrupted when a cry went up from the Bridge “Polar Bear at 11 o’clock”. The lecture room deserted itself in the same fashion as the cry of “Gold Strike at Bear Creek” did in Carry On Cowboy.

Some people, including The Vanilla Queen, saw the bear but Yours Truly didn’t. So it’s one each right now, for those of us keeping the score.

The lectures eventually carried on, with everything running late of course, and with a freezing audience too, because it was cold out there watching the pack ice and the ice floes drift past.

I missed some of it as, overwhelmed by sleep, I went to crash out. Only to find that the feeling had passed by the time that I got onto the bed.

For tea tonight they rustled up some tofu and vegetables, and we had an interesting chat with the team’s historian about all kinds of things.

There’s mixed news about our future plans. The wind is shifting round, which means that the weather will clear a little. Some of the places that we want to visit will be clear of ice, but the changing winds will have blown the ice across Lancaster Sound into the harbours of other places in which we want to visit.

It is, apparently, the worst year for ice for many years and will continue to confound all of our plans.

Later that night we went out on the upper deck in the snowstorm to watch the midnight sun and the ice floes, as we are now back in the ice again. She’s convinced that she saw a seal but it’s no use asking me. I could hardly see a thing out there.

But one thing is for sure. Following the appearance of His Nibs on shore today, his cover as a stowaway has been well and truly blown.

But he’s been accepted as a bona-fide traveller. He’s been given his own name badge and allowed to share my cabin officially. He was even invited to take control of the ship for a while.

Furthermore, it’s been proposed that the official Expedition photographer will take some official photos of him.

And that can’t be bad.

But there’s also been a dramatic change in situation here on board the Ocean Endeavour

I have rather foolishly … “he means “recklessly”” – ed … allowed a certain situation to develop completely out of hand and my emotions have run away with themselves, like they all-too-often have a tendency to do.

if I allow it to escalate any further it will be to my own detriment, as has been the case on many occasions.

I’m not very good at forcing decisions, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall. My usual practice is to roll with the road and follow my star wherever it leads me, but this is neither the time nor the place for vacillation.

As Marillion once famously wrote –
“The time has come to make decisions
The changes have to be made”

And so I need to know precisely where I stand in this particular circumstance.

This evening there was the ideal opportunity – presenting itself in a moment of high tension. And so I grasped the nettle.

The result was not what I had optimistically hoped but it was what I had realistically expected, and it killed the situation stone-dead. Which is not really a bad thing, I suppose, because in all honesty I don’t really have the time for distractions. I have much more important things to be doing.

“Thus Ends The Web”

Tuesday 4th September 2018 – SO THERE I WAS …

fog lancaster sound croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018… leaping out of bed at the first alarm (well, almost) at 06:00 to perform the usual morning ritual with the medication.

And then ten minutes later diving upstairs for the sightseeing in the Lancaster Sound – straight into that curse of all Arctic mariners – a rolling fog.

I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face at first. I had to wait a good two hours before the fog lifted and I could see anything at all.

snowfall ocean endeavour lancaster sound croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018But an Arctic fog wasn’t the only issue that we had to deal with this morning

During the night we had had snowfall too and some members of crew were busily sweeping the decks. Not a very big snowfall, but a snowfall all the same and it’s a sign of things to come.

So much for an exploration today, then. I can’t see us going ashore in a zodiac in this kind of weather if we can’t see what we are going to collide with.

The morning was spent editing all of the photos and I have a feeling that I’m going to be setting a new record on this trip. Day one of our voyage and I’m on 132 photos already. This is going to be a long trip.

Breakfast was acceptable – cereal and fruit salad with water (no soya milk of course) with toast and jam. Orange juice and as much coffee as I could drink and then more.

ice floe lancaster sound croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018We had the usual welcome meeting to give us the day’s itinerary, but it was all interrupted as far as I was concerned because we found ourselves in the ice stream. And that was me, and a German lady, lost to the public as we went outside to take a few photographs.

And it was just as well that we did because by the time that the speech was over we had passed through the ice and gone.

Mind you, it wouldn’t have been much to miss because we will be encountering ice much more formidable than this. Or, at least, we better had because otherwise there is little point in coming on a trip like this in my opinion.

One of the things that has surprised me more than anything was that when they handed out the waterproof boots, mine fitted me perfectly. Usually, it’s a kind of Army thing where they bung you a pair of boots and you either have to cut off your toes or else stuff a few sheets of newspaper inside.

The next thing was a discussion given by different Inuit from different regions of the High Arctic, to make us aware of the different cultures through which we will be passing.

Someone else taught us a couple of works in Inuit, but it’s not going to help much because there are so many different words and so many different dialects that I am bound to use the wrong word at the wrong time in the wrong place.

soapstone oil lamp Qulliq Kudlik croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018We have several Inuit people from the local area on board the ship.

Their role is to explain the local environment and culture to us and to help us understand much better the way of life out here.

Susi had brought with her a soapstone oil lamp – a Qulliq or Kudlik. They have always played quite an important role i life in the High Arctic and I was really glad that I actually managed to see one.

It’s fuelled with seal oil of course and the wick is Arctic Cotton, a-plenty of which we shall apparently be seeing on our voyage.

Lunch was a running buffet and much to my surprise there were things there that I could eat.

There was bad news afterwards. There had been a plan to go to visit the long-abandoned RCMP post on Devon Island, but one look at the fog and snow outside was enough to convince us otherwise.

You wouldn’t be able to spot a polar bear until it was about 50 feet away in this fog, by which time it would be far too late to do anything about it. That kind of thing can’t be helped of course, but it’s just so disappointing that all of our plans are just melting away into nothing.

arctic map croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Instead, Latonia gave us a very interesting talk on the different peoples of the High Arctic.

She also introduced us to a new cartographic way of looking at the Arctic that was certainly different for me.

Forget your Mercator’s Projection – this shows the Arctic regions in a much more realistic and accurate way and puts everything into the proper perspective.

glacier devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018By now though, the fog, which had been slowly lifting during the course of the day as you have seen, was now sufficiently clear that we can see some of what we might be doing.

Unfortunately it was far too late to go back to the RCMP post on Devon Island. But just a stone’s throw away up an inlet called Croker Bay just round the corner there is a glacier that calves into the sea.

Everyone thought that that might be a good place to visit, as a way of breaking us into the High Arctic.

hotchy bordeleau zodiac orion croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018They proposed a procession of Zodiacs up Croker Bay to see it, and so we donned our winter gear and waterproofs because there was a wind and it was still snowing.

The Vanilla Queen is in a different team to me so she was off in one of the first boats and I was in one of the last so by the time we went out she was back.

And how she had cause to regret it too, as you will find out in early course.

zodiac croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018So we bid a temporary farewell to our ship as we headed off up the inlet on our zodiac, with the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour disappearing into the fog and snow flurries behind us.

This is how I always imagined life in the High Arctic to be, and I pictured to myself the several generations of Sailors in the 19th Century who were obliged to do this with oars.

And then regularly volunteered to come back with a subsequent expedition.

iceberg croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018All of the broken ice at the head of the bay told us that an iceberg had not long calved and fragmented.

And so we weaved our way in and out of the icebergs and growlers, looking at all of the spectacular shapes and forms that they can produce,

I have never been this close to an iceberg and so I was absolutely thrilled to see them.

seal croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018And we weren’t alone here in the inlet either.

As well as our good selves, the zodiacs and the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour were several seals swimming about, fishing in the water at the foot of the glacier.

They are all unfortunately very out-of-focus. You have no idea just how difficult it is to take a photograph of a small moving object from a moving boat riding the swell in a wind..

zodiacs croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018But what happened next was unbelievable.

One of the passengers on our zodiac was scanning the rock face with the binoculars and was convinced that she had seen something moving about.

One of the other zodiacs had spotted it too and called up everyone on the radio so we all headed down that way.

polar bears croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018And sure enough, there WAS something moving.

It was very difficult to see anything clearly so I took a long-range photograph of it so that I could enlarge it at my leisure.

It’s a good job that I had fitted the zoom lens to the camera before we started. It would have been a difficult thing to do in a swaying zodiac.

polar bear devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018And it was as well that I did because I HAVE SEEN A POLAR BEAR. And not just a polar bear too, but a mummy polar bear with a cub in tow!

I suppose that it’s something of a cheat to say that I saw it, because I really didn’t know exactly what it was that I was seeing until I enlarged the photo, but it’s a polar bear nevertheless.

And I’m really hoping that I’ll see a polar bear much closer than this (although not too close of course) in due course but nevertheless it’s a good start.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018After this ten minutes of excitement we had to return to the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour.

There wasn’t a moment of silence on board our zodiac. We were all far too interested in discussing the polar bears that we had seen.

The seals on their own would have been exciting enough for one day but the polar bears really were something.

The whole thing was totally magnificent and I was so impressed. So impressed that I was prepared to say that this was one of the highlights of the journey – and we have only just started too!

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018As we approached the the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour we were lucky enough to witness the hoisting abord of the zodiacs who had returned to the ship before us.

We docked at one of the ramps at the side of the ship and we all clambered out of the zodiacs and on board.

I went straight to my room, had a quick shower, change of clothes and a clothes-wash and then back upstairs.

The Vanilla Queen was there so I showed her my photo of the bears. She was so depressed by it that I invited her to supper and negotiated a glass of wine for her to cheer her up.

zodiacs devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Later in the evening we all had to dress up again in our winter and waterproof gear.

One we were suitably dressed we all went for a moonlight (or what passes for moonlight here so high up in the Arctic) ride in the zodiacs up the the glacier once more.

And I did make the suggestion that they should equip the boats with telephone boxes so we could all dash in, spin around, and come out fully-changed like Superman … “superPERSON” – ed …” but for some reason that didn’t go down too well.

pirate zodiac devon island croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018No wildlife to speak of this evening. Just a few birds, but not of the kind that I’m ever likely to be interested in watching.

There was however a pirate zodiac manned … “PERSONNED” – ed …by buccaneers handing out hot toddies and hot tea to warm us up.

And you’ve no idea just how quickly hot tea goes cold in the High Arctic.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Most of the ice that we had seen earlier had been swept out of the bay.

But the face of the glacier was really impressive this evening with a couple of enormous bergs almost ready to break off and float away

There were a couple of largish ones over in the far corner creaking ominously as they were on the point of breaking up even further. We listened for a while just in case we might hear the “crack” telling us that we would be lucky enough to see an iceberg calve.

No such luck though.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018We couldn’t stay out there all night waiting in hope. We had to return to the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour.

But it wasn’t where we had left it. Rounding an iceberg we discovered that it had moved off to one side of the inlet under the cliffs.

Apparently there was another cruise ship on its way to shelter in the inlet for the night. It’s like the M6 up here in the High Arctic right now.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018By the time that we arrived back at our ship, it was going dark. Or, rather, as dark as it gets around here at this time of the year.

But this evening the cloud cover is quite thick so we won’t have very much in the way of midnight sun tonight.

We tied up our zodiac and scrambled aboard. And having disposed of my wet-weather gear I went off to my cabin to change into clean clothes.

croker bay ocean endeavour adventure canada north west passage september septembre 2018Right now I’m writing up my notes and editing the photos of today. And staring out of the window at the other ship riding at anchor on the other side of the inlet.

Later on after everyone else has gone to bed, I’ll go for a walk around with Strawberry Moose and look for more photo opportunities for His Nibs. He deserves to spread his fame around.

And then I’ll be off to bed. It’s another long day tomorrow, with an early start.

Monday 3rd September 2018 – AND THE ANSWER …

… to last night’s question was almost “back in Yellowknife” because we took off, did a circuit around the town and landed again. Apparently there was a “maintenance issue”. And even I could smell the exhaust fumes coming into the cabin.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat yellowknife airport out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And that’s because the plane that we are on is probably the oldest in which I have ever travelled (remember that the Avro Lancaster in Ontario
never left the ground).

You might think that this aeroplane here is a De Havilland DHC-7-103 Dash 7 registration number C-GUAT, and built as recently as 1978 but it’s actually the Vickers Vimy of Alcock and Brown recovered from the bog in Ireland specifically for the purpose of moving us on.

Piloted by Orville and Wilbur Wright, the flight attendant was Amelia Earhart and I had to move Charles Lindbergh’s sandwiches off my seat.

And that reminds me – who was first to fly the Atlantic non-stop?
“Mike Tyson”
“No, it was Allcock and Brown”
“That’s what I said, wasn’t it?”.

But returning to our moutons as they say around Quebec, I’m not sure whose idea it was for The Vanilla Queen to take me out at 23:30, long after we had all been tucked up in bed, to go to look for the Northern Lights.

We tramped miles but without very much success. A faint glimmer in the sky was all that we saw – nothing like the multi-coloured spectacular that you can see(but I have never seen at all) on occasion.

So we went back to the hotel.

The alarm call was due at 04:00 but I was wide awake at 02:35 – sleep issues again. And when I finally left my stinking pit I had a few things to do;

I’m not relying on coffee at the moment but I had a beautiful, warm shower instead. And not having unpacked my suitcase I was ready in moments.

A brief moment of hilarity when the shuttle bus collided with the canopy supports outside the hotel and knocked the brick fascia flying, and we were loaded and off to the airport.

first aid station coffee yellowknife airport out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018First thing that I noticed in the departure lounge was a sign saying “First Aid Station” – and underneath it was a large flask of coffee with a collection of paper cups.

“How very appropriate” I thought. But as you might have expected, it was empty.

Our spirits were somewhat aroused when someone came to take it away, but dashed when it never returned. We are of course only a couple of hundred miles from the Arctici Circle and even the basic necessities of life here are luxuries

mackenzie highway yellowknife northwest territories out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018 We’d been told that the earlier we arrived at the airport, the earlier we would leave, and so earlier we arrived we did. Our flight was due to depart at 06:15 but that was clearly a Spanish 06:15. Despite our early arrival it was in fact closer to 07:00 when we set off.

We did a lap or two around the airport and had a good view of the Mackenzie Highway underneath us – probably the nearest that I’ll ever come to it – and then we had to come back to Yellowknife Airport for repairs.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat yellowknife airport out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018It would come as no surprise to learn that the interior of the plane is quite primitive.

We are told that it was originally owned by Air Greenland and the livery would bear that out, and so it’s probably outfitted for hunter/trappers, Inuit and komatik teams rather than commercial passengers.

Huskies, muskoxen and courreurs de bois would certainly be much more at home in here than the likes of us.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat yellowknife out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018While I was wandering around in the aeroplane I also had a good look at the controls that the flight attendants would use in the passenger cabin.

We had rocker switches of the kind that you might have found in an up-market car of the early 1960s and a bakelite telephone that looked as if it dated from the 1950s.

Still, it’s one step up from baked bean tins and string, I suppose

Not only that – the on-board toilet is an Elsan chemical toilet – and I haven’t seen one of these fitted on board an aeroplane for centuries.

But we have to make the best of it. We were told (and I don’t doubt this for a moment) that we were lucky to find this plane for hire.

Mind you, after we had been flying for an hour or so the exhaust fumes in the cabin seemed to clear. Either that or I’d become accustomed to them.

And no special meal for me either. I’m not so much annoyed that I didn’t have my meal because this is rather an ad-hoc arrangement – but what annoyed me was that no-one had said anything about it. Had they done so, I could have made my own arrangements. I have stuff in my suitcase that I could have eaten.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 cockpit controls  c-guat out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018One thing that was quite surprising was that we were given a visit to the controls. You don’t get that these days on a scheduled flight of course.

The captain was there rather nonchalantly looking at a video on his phone while the autopilot was doing the work. No idea where the co-pilot was.

This would have been an ideal moment for Strawberry Moose to have had a photo opportunity by taking over the controls. And he would have done well too because there is nothing hi-tech about this machine.

But he’s locked up in the hold with his bottle of whisky – and you can hear the sea shanties from here.

air tindi de havilland dash 7 c-guat out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018After all of this, I needed a coffee. And I wasn’t the only one either, with The Vanilla Queen making frantic coffee-like gesticulations.

But, quite unsurprisingly, we had run out. No more coffee at all and that filled me with even more dismay, gloom and foreboding, especially as we still had four hours of flight to go.

I settled down for a snooze instead, and I can’t say that I didn’t need it after all of my nocturnal ramblings.

out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Wherever it is that we are heading, we aren’t going to make it all in one go. These Dash-7 aeroplanes aren’t made for long-hail flights and the range is not what you might expect from a modern aeroplane.

We had to put down for refuelling and there’s a suitable airstrip at the foot of the Simpson Peninsula at a place called Pelly Bay

And I’m glad that I managed at least to reach Pelly Bay, because it is one of the most famous, if not controversial places in Arctic history. It was here in 1854 that the first definite news of the lost Franklin Expedition came to light.

pelly bay Kugaaruk out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018When the British Government finally stirred its stumps to send relief expeditions to look for Franklin, they were all sent spectacularly in the wrong direction.

It was Doctor John Rae, with no connection to any of the expeditions but leading a surveying party on behalf of the Hudsons Bay Company, who on 21st April 1854 encountered a wandering band of Inuit carrying relics of Franklin’s expedition

They gave Rae an account of the final days of the sad remnants of Franklin’s expedition including graphic descriptions of cannibalism amongst the party.

Rae made his report accordingly, and which was picked up and published by The Times on 23rd October 1854. And for daring to suggest that White Men had deliberately stopped so low as to eat their fellow human beings, he was abused and shunned by Society.

However, subsequent expeditions that followed up the report of Rae found the observations of the Inuit to be perfectly correct. Modern re-examination of several remains has only served to substantiate the case.

kugaaruk pelly bay out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018We put down for fuel at Pelly’s Bay – otherwise known these days as Kugaaruk (the little stream) – at the western foot of the Simpson Peninsula.

This had been one of the potential sites for us to have been rescued, but it’s at the head of a bay and the north wind has blown a pile of pack ice down to jam up the entrance, so we’re having to go on elsewhere.

We could have waited here for the weather to clear but as you can see, there’s nowhere here to wait.

pelly bay Kugaaruk out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018While the aeroplane was refuelling we had a wander around the airport terminal, such as it is.

There is nothing in the way of food or coffee here, and the queue for the two washrooms was enormously long. To such an extent that it took much longer for everyone to visit the bathroom than it did to fuel up the plane, and the plane had to wait for the passengers.

And a visit to the bathroom was necessary because the Elsan on the plane is now full and out of bounds.

calm air atr 72 c-fcrz pelly bay Kugaaruk out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018There was a cargo aeroplane unloading, a Calm Air (whoever they are when they are at home, if they ever are) aeroplane C-FCRZ, whatever that might be, and I’ll check that when I can find a decent internet connection… “it’s an ATR 72-202(F)” – ed.

It had brought in a rather banal pile of supplies that were being taken away in the back of a pick-up truck.

This shows you the immediate supply difficulties of communities out here in the wilds of Arctic Canada and explains some of the high prices that you see.

Because, believe it or not, we are now beyond the Arctic Circle and I bent down and rubbed my hand through all of the gravel in celebration, because this kind of thing is important to me.

Once we were all ready we took off again again again.

Apparently our next stop is going to be Pond Inlet on Baffin Island, and we might even get there too because we did actually manage to take off again – and flew out over Pelly’s Bay and headed out north-west across Committee Bay – the stretch of water that separates the Boothia Peninsula and the Melville peninsula

And if anyone is in doubt about global warming, all they need to do is to look at my photographs of the area here, nice dry weather with no snow whatsoever, and then read the accounts of the 19th-Century explorers as they struggled through the ice and snowdrifts with man-hauled sledges at a similar time of year.

icebergs gulf of boothia out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Way down below us, and we weren’t flying high (because you can’t in a Dash-7), over the Gulf of Boothia, we were starting to see icebergs in some of the bays down here.

These will have calved off the glaciers on the western coast of Greenland and taken north by the Gulf Stream

They will then have been picked up and then brought down here through the Prince Regent Inlet by the caprices of the Labrador Current.

floe ice gulf of boothia out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018It wasn’t long before we began to encounter floe ice. Not very substantial, it has to be admitted, but nevertheless it was there.

And from here it might not look as if it would stop a substantial ship, but we’d been shown a video of a ship being piloted through by an icebreaker, and how quickly the wind was blowing the ice back, closing in behind the icebreaker, making passage no more easy for the ship.

And this what what was causing us all of our problems.

fury and hecla strait out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018At one point we flew over a strait that was very narrow and confined.

It conformed to all of the descriptions that I had read of Bellot Strait – the key to the North-West Passage. But of course we aren’t going that way. That’s further to the north up the Boothia Peninsula

It’s actually the Fury and Hecla Strait that we are flying over, between the Melville Peninsula and Baffin Island.

baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018It’s not quite what I was hoping to see of course, and certainly not from the air, but it’s impressive all the same.

But 165 years ago we wouldn’t even have seen it at all, for we were now in, for Doctor Rae, uncharted territory.

His 1854 map of the area left the coastline and interior of this region totally unmarked. There wasn’t even guesswork or a rough estimation of whatever there might be around here.

cliffs baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Amongst the many claims to fame of Baffin Island, one of the things for which itis famous is its magnificent cliffs.

And we were treated to them in all their glory. You can really understand why the Norse and many other subsequent explorers had failed to set foot on this point, and why it remained uncharted even in the days of James Rae.

Who would want to climb right up there after a landfall that would in itself be very uncertain indeed?

cliffs baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018Our pilot offered us a treat. He told us that there were several ways into Pond Inlet, and one of them was to circle around the mountains and come in up the channel – Eclipse Sound – that separates Baffin Island and Bylot Island.

And as we rounded the headland and were hit full force by the turbulence of a strong wind that was roaring up the cliffs and causing us to bounce around like a rubber ball,

I was reminded of the pilot of Air New Zealand Flight 901 who offered his passengers a scenic circuit of Mounts Erebus and Terror in similar conditions and circumstances in November 1979. Of the 257 people on board there were no survivors.

And I’m not sure about the wisdom of doing this with an overflowing Elsan either. I’m glad that I wasn’t sitting by the toilet door.

iceberg eclipse sound baffin island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018But we survived, which was just as well, and I’m glad that we came this way because our pilot spotted a rather large iceberg floating down the strait.

The pilot offered us a circuit of it so that we could photograph it, which was rather a tall order at such a low level in a rather elderly, creaking Dash-7 and I had a feeling that all of this was going to end in tears.

But circle it he did and we could see it in all its splendour and it looked magnificent.

russian cruise ship eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018As we approached the coastline, a cry went up from two different parts of the aeroplane.

Someone had seen what they reckoned would be the ship that was going to take us off on the next stage of our adventure (because, if you haven’t already guessed, this flight is merely the beginning).

However, on closer inspection it turned out to be a Russian cruise ship that was navigating the waters around here.

And The Vanilla Queen let out quite a cry too, and almost blew out my eardrums. She has a thing about narwhals and sure enough, there was a school of them swimming about below.

I wouldn’t recognise a narwhal if I were to trip over one in a floodlit football stadium, but by the time we came into land I think that everyone on the ship was a narwhal-spotting expert thanks to her.

And this is the beauty of travelling in a well-informed and well-educated group of diverse people.

mittimatalik airport pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018So here we are then at Pond Inlet, or Mittimatalik as it is called these days. It’s on the North-East tip of Baffin Island, deep in the Arctic.

We have to have the obligatory photo of the airport of course, just to say that we finally arrived, even though this wasn’t anything like where we were supposed to be.

The Vanilla Queen wanted me to take one of her next to the sign – but that’s on her camera so you won’t get to see that.

mittimatalik airport pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018The party that had been stuck on the ship for a couple of days waiting for us to relieve them gave us all a resounding cheer as we entered the terminal.

Whether it was to reward us for our perseverance or whether it was a cheer of relief that they could all now go home I really don’t know.

But it was totally unnecessary and rather overwhelming.

An ancient school bus – even more derelict than our aeroplane and that’s saying something, took us down to the waterline.

zodiac mittimatalik pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018There’s no dock here and it wouldn’t ordinarily be a stopping point, but it’s ice-free and has an airport, and that’s so important when you are considering this kind of thing.

Instead, there was a fleet of inflatable zodiacs waiting to take us out into the Eclipse Strait.

While we were kitting ourselves out in our wet-weather gear, three little Inuit girls came to say hello to us and show us the little baby puppies that they had hidden inside their jackets to keep them warm.

ocean endeavour eclipse sound mittimatalik pond inlet out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018As we were about to climb into the zodiacs, the wind shifted dramatically as it does in the Arctic, and we had to move a short distance down the coast and behind an outcrop of rocks to shelter.

And there we were treated to the sight of our ship.

She’s the Good Ship Ve … errr Ocean Endeavour and it’s quite clear, as we came closer and closer towards her that she is a former car ferry – with a welded rear drop-down door.

eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018That makes her at least 25 years old if she was formerly an EU ship, as their commercial licences are usually withdrawn at that age.

The zodiac ride was exciting. The winds were such that we were thrown around on top of the waves and it was much more interesting that anything that you would pay for in an adventure park.

I was all for going back and doing it again.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018While you admire a few more photos of Eclipse Sound, with Bylot Island in the background, let me tell you a few more things about the ship.

We were welcomed aboard by the reception staff, and then our floor steward took me to my room. it’s a tiny 4-berth cabin – and I do mean “tiny”.

There are two berths side by side, two fold-down booths above, a table and chair, a wardrobe and a tiny shower room with all mod-cons.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And I am on my own, which is just as well because I don’t do company as I’m sure that regular readers of this rubbish will recall.

Except for Strawberry Moose of course. And he’s quite happy with his bed anyway.

One day he’ll get to meet the rest of the passengers.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And of course, if the company is young, female and friendly. And then sleeping isn’t all that much of an issue, is it?

There was a reception organised for the passengers. And once more, there was nothing vegan on offer. I buttonholed the Captain and complained about the whole set-up.

The service manager came to meet me and he was most gracious in his apologies and told me that he would make it up to me. Would I like a complimentary bottle of wine?

He was most put-out when I mentioned that I didn’t drink.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018As for the evening meal, I made myself known to the restaurant manager who comes from Budapest (so we had a good chat about Budapest and Hungary). He asked me all kinds of questions and we arranged that when there’s a set meal, I should speak to him and he would speak to the chef.

I ended up with lentil soup, a salad with bulghour and some kind of black beans, followed by fruit. That suited me fine.

We had a lifeboat drill and were introduced to the team. I made the acquaintance of a team member called Latonia who is a specialist in Labrador and the High Arctic and we had a chat.

mittimatalik pond inlet eclipse sound bylot island eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018And then I went off to take some photographs before we lost the light.

Not that that’s something over which anyone needs to lose much sleep, if you pardon the expression, because at this time of year at these attitudes, the light isn’t totally lost.

This photo was taken just before 23:00 and there is still some light left as you can see.

eclipse sound out of the north west passage adventure canada september septembre 2018So now I’m alone in the bar writing up my notes.

I’ve taken Strawberry Moose for a good walk around in search of some exciting places for him to be photographed.

This was a likely spot, suitable for him to make his debut appearance on the ship.

After all, just like any important celebrity, he needs to spread his fame about.

Sunday 2nd September 2018 – HAVING GONE WEST …

… yesterday, I was hoping that we would be emulating Richard Barnes today and, getting rather tired of Southern Comfort we would “Go North”.

early morning plane landing edmonton airport canadaAnd it must be my really bad conscience telling me something, or else the tension has totally swept me away, Or else it was the early night. But I was wide-awake at 02:25 this morning, looking at the aircraft coming into land at the airport.

By 04:00 I was out of bed working, having given up the idea of sleep a long time previously. I really need to do something about this otherwise I’m going to have a catastrophe.

After all of the alarms had rung, I went and had a good shower. And gathered up all my things.

Luckily, at the check-out I managed to locate a coffee machine so I was able to fuel up. Maybe I’ll feel a little more like it when it starts to work. Who knows?

At the baggage check-in at the airport I noticed that I’m definitely losing my touch. My suitcase weighed a mere 16.6 kgs and that included Strawberry Moose. It’s not like me at all. I could have taken a couple of extra children in my baggage allowance.

Security was another total farce. We had probably the surliest member of the Canadian Government Service that I have ever encountered (and I’ve encountered a few, believe me, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall).

And then my boots rang the alarm bells at the barrier so I was told (not asked, told) to take them off. And so I made an acerbic remark about the fact that I’d rather take my chances with the freedom fighters than the Security Services, which led to my being “selected for special screening”.

The guy then couldn’t make the explosives detector work so I sat down on his table to rest, to which he took a great deal of exception. My response was that I wasn’t going to hang around like this while he messed around with all of his useless equipment, and we had something of a stand-off as I dug my heels in.

In the end, I was waved through, but not before they confiscated my bottle of water. For some reason or another they took exception to my book too and we had a little argument about that as well.

I really don’t know what’s the matter with these people. It’s almost as if they go around looking for a fight. So the best that I can do is to make their day and oblige them.

While I was sitting down, I started to make a list of the things that I don’t remember packing. I can see it being another one of THOSE voyages. And I must remember to find a large bin-liner in which to wrap His Nibs, otherwise he’ll be rather wet.

bae 146 avro rj85 rj100 canada september septembre 2018Our aeroplane is one of the old British Aerospace BAe146 voriants, either an Avro RJ85 or an RJ100, and the only way to tell them apart withour a tape measure is to have one standing alongside another.

You can tell from the registration number too, but I can’t see it on my photo. It’s a charter flight operated by a company based in Yellowknife and there weren’t all that many people on it, which makes me think that it might be an RR100.

I ended up sharing a row of seats with an elderly British lady who has lived in Canada for 75 years, and a rather garrulous British guy who had clearly had more than just a whiff of the barmaid’s apron.

A meal was supplied on the flight and I was rather dubious about whether it was really as vegan as it was supposed to be.

After a nice relaxing flight we came in to land at Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories for a refuelling stop.

That’s a decision that seemed to me at the time to be a rather strange decision, knowing the likely range of a BAe 146. And the cynic inside me was not assuaged by the news that we received here.

It seems that, once more, we had been confounded by the weather. Instead of blowing stuff away from us, is blowing stuff towards us and blocking our passage, which can be very painful if you have forgotten to bring your ointment.

The bad weather conditions mean that we can’t go on yet again, and we are now stranded here in Yellowknife for a while. Looking at the positives, because I need to adopt a more positive outlook, at least, I can say that at 62°27N this is the farthest north point that I have ever reached, beating Finland 1981 by a good 100 or so miles.

But will we make it any farther north?

That positive outlook didn’t last very long, did it?

While things are being organised, I went for a walk outside the airport.

Straight away, I stumbled across a paid of really old Douglas DC3 “Dakotas” parked up at the end of the runway. I knew that there were some that had been abandoned here but I didn’t think that I would be lucky enough to find them.

douglas dakota dc3 c-gpnr buffalo air yellowknife canada september septembre 2018This one here is registration number C-GPNR and it was apparently built in 1942, construction number 13333 and ex-USAAF serial 42-93423.

It’s a DC3-S1C3G variant, which seems to indicate to me that it’s fitted with two 895-kW Pratt and Whitney R-1830-S1C3G Twin Wasp radials rated at at 1200hp, so it’s much more powerful than the versions fitted with Wright Cyclone engines.

But it doesn’t look as if it will be going very far in the near future as from what I can see, its last airworthiness certificate that I could find expired on 23rd May 1996

douglas dakota dc3 cf-cue buffalo air yellowknife canada september septembre 2018This one is a Douglas C47 version – the Skytrain – of the DC3 Dakota.

Her registration number is C-FCUE, built in 1942 as construction number 12983 and fitted with two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines. It’s claimed to be the first aeroplane to have landed in Yellowknife and can count among its celebrated passengers the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

It’s also been suggested and one very vocal local yokel told me that one of these two aircraft was involved in the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944

But it’s a shame to see them here slowly disappearing into the landscape like this. Someone ought to do something about saving them.

There’s another aeroplane here too, away in the distance. This one is on display on a plinth. Yet another obliging local told me that this was the first aeroplane to have landed on the North Pole and so I went to see that too.

arctic fox bristol mk31 freighter north pole yellowknife airport canada september septembre 2018And, lo and behold, it’s Arctic Fox, registration CF-TFX.

She’s a Bristol Mk31 freighter and you will have to look long and hard to find another one of these aeroplanes anywhere in the world because there can’t be more than a dozen remaining.

She was built in 1953 to a wartime design as a freighter as you can tell from the clamshell front doors for transporting machinery and vehcles.

arctic fox bristol mk31 freighter north pole yellowknife airport canada september septembre 2018She was bought by Wardair in 1958 and used for the transportation of freight around the North-West Territories.

But her claim to fame is much more important and personal than that, because she was the first ever wheeled aeroplane to land at the North Pole, a feat that she accomplished on 5th May 1967 under the control of a pilot called Don Braun.

It was purchased from Wardair in 1968 and installed here as a monument on 22nd June 1968

I went back to the airport afterwards to see what was going on, and eventually we were picked up by a shuttle bus and driven to our hotel. We’re staying in the Days Inn in the centre of the new town, up on the hill.

And much to my surprise, I don’t seem to be alone.

The Vanilla Queen, whom I mentioned yesterday and who is named for all those of you who know your Dutch rock music from the early 1970s – is the Québecoise who was on my plane from Montreal to Edmonton yesterday. She was then in the hotel last night, again on the ‘plane this morning, now on my shuttle bus and she’s staying in my hotel.

We had a lengthy chat and what she told me caused me to give her all of my adulation. She comes from Montreal, south of the river, and had the urge to go to live in the Arctic. So one day, she just upped sticks and moved to Iqaluit, the principal town on Baffin Island, beyond the Arctic Circle.

And how I admire people like that who have that kind of courage.

She’s a hair stylist (NOT a hairdresser) by profession, so I joked that she would have loads of fun trying to do something with what remains of the hair that I still have.

For lunch I wandered off into town and came across a Subway. That’ll do me nicely.

demolition of old wooden building yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018But not before I’d witnessed the total demolition of an old wooden building here.

Half of the town was out watching it, and I thought that it was the highlight of the year, but it turns out that it was a silent protest as almost everyone in the community was up in arms about the whole affair.

Mind you, someone whom I met later said that in her opinion it was a derelict wreck and about time that it went.

On the way back I noticed a sign saying that the town had been built on the oldest rocks yet known in the world,, so I recounted to one of the officials on our voyage the story of the rocks being 4,000,004 years and three months old.

But as Alfred Hitchcock and Kenneth Williams once so famously remarked “it’s a waste of time telling jokes to foreigners”.

great slave lake yellowknife north west territory canada september septembre 2018A little later, there was a guided tour of the town organised so I leapt on board. And so did The Vanilla Queen, and we had quite another chat.

I was expecting to see the sewage farm, the rubbish dump and the brand-new bicycle rack but instead we ended up on the rock at the Bush Pilots’ Memorial where there’s a magnificent view over Yellowknife Bay on the Great Slave Lake.

It was well-worth the climb because You could see for miles from up here over some really beautiful views.

modern town yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018Yellowknife is actually two towns in one.

The original settlement that was founded in the 1930s is down by the lake but when the North West Territories were incorporated in 1967 and the region’s administrative offices were located here, these buildings were constructed up on the hill away from the water.

A modern town, complete with all facilities, to house the staff who came here with the Government grew up around the buildings. Today, about 20,000 people live here.

hotchy yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018We walked back down the hill towards town in the company of another couple of people who had spent some time in the town and who knew their way around.

There were several exciting things to see on the way down, including this little photo prop at the side of the road.

It’s the kind of thing that is always worth a good photo opportunity

ad hoc sculptures yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018On our way again, we hadn’t gone all that far when we were sidetracked by some of the most extraordinary people you would ever wish to meet.

Down at the edge of the lake we ended up at the old original settlement of the town. Here we met a guy who makes sculptures by collecting all kinds of abandoned objects and balancing them on top of each other.

Having lived here for a considerable number of years, he told us a whole host of interesting and exciting stories about life down here.

houseboats great slave lake yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018He also pointed out a route along the lake shore where we could see many interesting things, such as house boats that float on large iron pontoons.

Rents in the town are quite expensive, but the lake is actually outside the city boundary so people can live here on a houseboat without paying rent or any local authority charges.

This can on occasion lead to quite a considerable amount of controversy. There are of course no services available to those who live in the houseboats and so they take advantage of those available in the town – without usually paying for them of course.

jolliffe island houseboats great slave lake yellowknife great slave lake canada september septembre 2018Many of the local residents and indeed the town council are none-too-happy about this situation and on quite a few occasions the farces of law and order have been involved.

Access to the houseboats is of course by boat during the summer but in the winter the lake freezes over and access is on foot.

And the ice on the lake is so solid that residents can even bring their vehicles right up to the front door.

ragged ass road yellowknife north west territories canada september septembre 2018One of the most famous roads in the town is called Ragged Ass Road.

When the access to the waterfront properties was by water, what is now known as Ragged Ass Road was the rear limit of the properties and at was against this line that all of the outside toilets of the residents were situated.

However there are some people who reckon that this story is at best apocryphal.

Another famous street in the town is Lois Lane. In case you haven’t guessed, one of the houses in the street was for a number of years the home of the actress Margaret (Margot) Kidder.

While we were down in Ragged Ass Road we met a woman who told us that she was a computer programmer and that she had developed the computer program that Sue was using on her tablet.

international harvester r150 yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018In the garden of a house right by where we were talking, there were a couple of abandoned lorries.

I thought that this one was exciting. It’s an International Harvester R150 that was gradually being overwhelmed by Arctic Willow.

This is quite a rare vehicle because as far as I could discover, they were only made from 1953 to 1955. The whole range totalled about 250,000 of which well over half related to just one model, the R110.

air compressor tools and drills yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018That wasn’t all that was exciting around here either.

This is an old mining area and as well as the old Ingersoll Rand air compressor that was lying around, there were loads of old air tools and machinery lying around too.

Someone had taken full advantage of all of these to create a very interesting art-deco sculpture that spanned several gardens in the street.

gold miners cabin yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018I mentioned that the original site of the town was down here on the waterfront.

It consisted of loads of of old ad-hoc wooden cabins assembled by the miners who came here in the late 1930s in search of the gold that had been discovered in the area in 1934.

There are still a few of the original cabins remaining and this was pointed out to us as being one of them.

Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018By now our little group of people had whittled itself down to just two of us and so we wandered off to the museum of local life, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

This was certainly quite an interesting place and there were lots to see. We certainly learnt a great deal about local life amongst the indigenous people.

I was very keen on the Polar Bears while The Vanilla Queen fell in love with a stuffed Muskox.

parliament building council offices yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is situated in a very beautiful location on the edge of the city in a small park, in the same area where the Parliament of the Northwest Territories is situated.

We still had plenty of time after the museum closed and so we were able to admire the Government Offices in all their glory in the evening sunshine.

This isn’t the kind of traditional view that you would associate with life on the tundra so close to the Arctic Circle.

Our evening meal at the hotel across the road had been put back by half an hour and so we had plenty of time left on our hands. But there was a beautiful lake at the back of that hotel which looked very inviting so we went for a walk.

And I must have been very distracted because I don’t seem to have taken any photos of it. I’m sure that that can’t be right.

inuit throat singing yellowknife northwest territories canada september septembre 2018We had a nice buffet tea, with plenty of choice even for me which makes a nice change.

And after tea, we were entertained by some Inuit throat musicians giving a fine demonstration of their art. It was certainly different.

But the procedure was interrupted by an announcement from the admin of our trip that with a change in the direction of the wind we are going to try to go on tomorrow. But to where, we really don’t have much of an idea

So off we traipsed to our hotel and bed. Alarm calls at 04:00 and on the bus at 05:00

And where will we be stranded tomorrow?

Saturday 1st September 2018 – IT WAS HARD THIS MORNING …

… to haul myself out of the stinking pit. But then, what do you expect at 04:00 in the morning? at least I beat the morning chorus of the air-conditioning and the fridge compressor.

But having made my butties and packed my bags last night, a quick wash and a few other things and I was ready for the road.

I hadn’t gone more than 100 yards when I was totally drenched in one of these sudden storms for which Montreal is famous. But it went just as quickly as it came so it wasn’t too much of a problem.

And it’s a good job that I was early at the bus stop. The advertised time of departure is 04:54 but at 04:54 we were already half-way down the Boulevard Rene-Levèsque, doubtless to the annoyance of a few people, I should imagine.

The airport was the usual Dorval chaos. As Alvin Tofler predicted 40 years ago in his classic book “The Third Wave”, it’s all self-check-in stuff now. The passengers don’t have a clue half the time as to what they might be doing, and it’s all very well for the staff to tirer la tronchewhen the labels are stuck on the suitcases incorrectly or something like that, but what do they expect?

While “security” might ordinarily have been somewhat painless, I was still marked out for more personal attention – probably because they found the tube of Aloe Vera, for which I had paid a small fortune yesterday, in my backpack. They even closely examined the peak of my cap.

As I have said before … “and you’ll say again” – ed … I’d much rather take my chances with the freedom fighters than the airport “security” personnel.

They had a call for hand luggage to go into the hold, and just for a change I sent mine down, having removed the laptop and the book. I remember that I was rather overwhelmed with stuff on the journey over, and it’s only a couple of hours on the plane (said he, having forgotten about the two-hour time difference).

airbus A320-200 air canada august aout 2018Today’s aeroplane is an Airbus A320-200, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a flight in one of those.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see its serial number so I can’t tell you anything about it.

But what I can tell you is that, much to my surprise, there wasn’t a meal offered on the flight – and it was over 4.5 hours too. That was bizarre.

Plenty of coffee though, so I fuelled up on a couple of occasions. And being stuck in the middle of a row (no aisle seats available yet again) I had to disturb this rather nice Oriental girl sitting next to me.

hotel renaissance edmonton airport canada august aout 2018But as for the hotel itself, I’ve never ever seen anything like it. It even puts the one in Tunisia to shame.

The staff are overwhelmingly polite to the point of being obsequious and I found that very disagreeable.

But there’s absolutely everything that you could want here, even down to an electric iron and a shoe polishing kit.

edmonton airport canada august aout 2018I’m right at the top, on the 8th floor to be precise.

And on the side that has a beautiful view right over the terminal building and the runway too. I could sit and watch the planes come in to land all day, but I have plenty of thigs to do;

Like reorganise my luggage.

subway sandwich bar near edmonton airport canada august aout 2018But first things first.

With there being no food on the aeroplane I need to organise some lunch, and one of the advantages of having a good internet connection is that these days one can call up a map of the area to see what’s about.

And just about one kilometre away across the car park is a Subway sandwich bar.

These days they offer falafel so I braved the biting wind and went over there for a falafel and salad butty. And it was hard work trying to persuade the rather elderly “sandwich artiste” to make me what I wanted instead of what she wanted to sell me.

But when I finally received it, it was very nice. And with it being this week’s special offer too, it was very realistically-priced.

electric block heater socket canada august aout 2018The walk back through the car park was very interesting indeed, and for a whole variety of reasons too.

Do you remember all those years ago when we first started to come regularly to Canada and we saw these electric plugs dangling out of the engine compartments?

We decided that they were engine block heaters and, sure enough, here on the car park at Edmonton Airport are the sockets in which to plug them in winter.

nissan quest edmonton airport canada august aout 2018No what about this car?

This is one that I’ve never seen before, and yet it looks kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s actually a third-generation Nissan Quest, made between 2004 and 2009 and in my opinion it bears more than just a passing resemblance to the Dodge Grand Caravans that we used to have in the good old days before Strider, doesn’t it?

genesis edmonton canada september septembre 2018And here’s something else that we Europeans won’t ever have seen.

It’s a Genesis, and in case you are wondering what that might be, it’s really a Hyundai but quite a luxury one.

With the Hyundai name being usually associated with more plebeian vehicles, it was felt that offering a luxury car under that name was not such a good idea – hence the branding exercise.

luggage edmonton airport canada september septembre 2018I went for a walk around the terminal building.

I was intrigued by the fact that, for the domestic flights at any rate, the baggage carousels decanted themselves right into the middle of the Arrivals terminal.

That’s not such a good security idea in my opinion – anyone could grab your suitcase and walk off with it without any check whatsoever.

Another good advantage of having a decent internet connection is that you can watch the football. In the Welsh Premier League today, the televised match was Cefn Druid v Llandudno and I managed to catch the second half.

Llandudno had most of the play but weren’t as well-organised as the Druids, and the 2-1 scoreline in favour of the latter was about right.

But judging by the style and quality of the play, it’s clear to see why these two clubs are at the wrong end of the table.

I had a shower and a wash of the clothes that I had been wearing, and then I had to go to a meeting to discuss our future.

There were 170 of us in this little room all told, including The Vanilla Queen – a nice young girl whom I had noticed on the aeroplane coming up here. The presenter of this meeting gave us all some very bad news.

Not the news that I was hoping to hear, I have to say, but it can’t be helped. No-one can legislate for the weather at all and you get what you are given and like it.

As a result, all of our plans have now changed and I am really disappointed. And what didn’t help was missing my aim and biting a huge chunk out of my lower lip. It’s swollen up like nobody’s business right now.

But there’s always a bright side to everything. I had a long chat with she named The Vanilla Queen. She’s a hairdresser, so it seems, and lives on Baffin Island. And she’ll be on my aeroplane with me (and about 50 other people) at … gulp … 06:00 tomorrow morning.

And so yet another early start. I’m going to bed.:!!