I had intended to start this first blog of the new year with something like: “Well, we made it. Hello 2021. Everything’s going to be different this year.”
As the adage says, “Be careful what you wish for.”
I never thought that I would invoke my inner Dolly Parton, but at times like these, her latest song has some prescient lyrics.
Even though we’re walkin’ through the valley of death
Scared and wonderin’ what happens next
Uncertainty, division, anger and the rest
I still believe
Questions of what and why and when
What is it, why it happened or when will it end
These are strange and crazy times that we’re living in
But I still believe
I believe to my very core
We’ll walk again in the sunshine by the seashore
That we’ll dance and we’ll sing and be happy again
Don’t know how or when but we will again, you’ll see
I still believe (I believe)
If you missed the Holly Dolly Christmas Special on TV, then check out the song on YouTube https://youtu.be/s9j5cxP1GZQ
Or simply Google “dolly parton I still believe lyrics”. It really is a positive way to start the year.
Which is much needed. After the warmest (and greenest) Christmas since records have been kept on the Island, the New Year arrived with a dump of 27 centimetres of snow. I thought that perhaps, at last, a modicum of normalcy was returning to the world. Although that’s a difficult claim to make, as five days later I saw a Northern Cardinal in my backyard. This is quite a rare bird here, a marginal visitor at best, and was the first one I’ve ever seen on the Island. So perhaps, I thought, we’re not quite ‘normal’ yet.
Then I checked what was happening in the rest of the world. Mass arrests in Hong Kong. The United Kingdom moving to a new level of COVID emergency. The President of Brazil saying the vaccine might turn people into crocodiles. Nope, everything’s still pretty 2020.
Personally, I think Boris Johnson did quite a smart thing, having the COVID emergency tiers start at 1 and go up. It gives him all sorts of latitude. In terms of threat, most alerts go from three (low), to two (medium), to one (high). So, what happens when you reach one? The same for the colour system. Canadian provinces tend to go green, yellow, orange, and then red, in levels of increasing severity. What does one do after red? Boris, however, can simply add another level each time things go sideways. Actually, the other day quite a funny cartoon to that effect made the rounds.
Still, I thought, at least things are going to transition to ‘more or less normal’ in the US, as that country moves from one president to another. Then Wednesday happened. It’s Dolly time again.
In fact, I can’t even articulate what I think about what took place in Washington. It’s too raw right now. Perhaps in a future blog. Instead, I would like to share an anniversary.
Today, 8 January 2021, marks the 300th consecutive day I have remained in the same time zone.
This has not happened for 25 years, and not just because of holidays! In every year that I was a university professor there were conferences and meetings, research trips and seminars, events which kept me on the road two or three (or more) times a year. In my quest to become full professor I made sure that my work was widely disseminated – I tried to present a paper or be part of a symposium in at least one local, national, and international conference a year. In addition, there was my educational development work, which gave me the opportunity to work around the world, in many wonderful countries such as Kosovo, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Sweden. The travel became strangely addictive, and I got a great sense of enjoyment out of knowing which were the best airline lounges. When I learned of the Air Canada Million Mile program, there was a tangible reward in sight, and it was with glee that I unpacked my model aeroplane once it arrived. Appropriately it’s a model of a Boeing Dreamliner – appropriate because now the only place I’m flying is in my dreams. C’est la vie.
But if I could, where would I go? I have made my bucket list and prioritized the top 5 places I’d like to visit as soon as travel becomes feasible again. I’ve ignored issues like cost, time, and the convenience to other people, these are my dreams!
First, the west coast, and a chance to see our youngest daughter’s new house, on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver. That part of the country is ironically named, as it has some of the heaviest precipitation in the country and supports a temperate rain forest. At least they don’t have to shovel it. From there one can drive to Inuvik, on the shore of the Beaufort Sea, a 3800 kilometers (2300 miles) odyssey that encompasses northern British Columbia, the Yukon, and the Dempster Highway. According to Google Maps it is a 51-hour drive, so allowing for sightseeing and other stops that would be a 10- or 12-day trip, with four or five hours of driving each day. I’ve never been to the Yukon, or to that side of the Arctic, so that would be fun. Of course, it’s 3800 klicks back as well, but that would be faster as it’s all down the map.
Second, I want (and need) to get back to the UK, to see family and friends and to resume the trip which was rudely interrupted last March. I’ve never been up to the very north of Scotland and would love to see that part of the country. A quick side-trip into Europe would be good as well, to visit friends in France. Luckily, Brexit has no impact on my travel into the European Union.
Third, Australia beckons me back. I’ve never been to Tasmania and would like to complete my ‘set’ of states. There are many friends to visit on the north and eastern coasts, and a trip across the Top End from Cairns to Broome has always been something I’ve wanted to do.
In fact, I would probably try to go the other way, arriving first in Perth and then going from Broome to Cairns, and then down the coast to Tasmania. That would leave me in the correct geographical location to start trip 4, which would involve a cruise across the Pacific to the west coast of Canada or the US. It would be magnificent to drop in at all the islands of Micronesia and Polynesia, visited by Captain James Cook (and Paul Gauguin) so many years ago. Plus, I’ve never been on a cruise.
Finally, closer to home and not requiring an aeroplane to facilitate, another road trip is the one which goes from Red Bay, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river, all the way round Labrador to Tadoussac, near Montreal. It’s almost 2400 kilometers (1500 miles), so about a two-week drive. Plus of course the three days it would take to get to Red Bay, which requires a long drive up the northern peninsular of Newfoundland and then a ferry across the Strait of Belle Isle from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon. That narrow channel is also known as ‘ice-berg alley’, so one’s timing has to be pretty careful! And the two days to drive back from Montreal. So about three weeks in all, and not an airport lounge in sight.
After that … well, I’d love to visit with friends from Umeå to Ottawa, Boston to Bretagne, Massachusetts to Medellín, New York to New Zealand, and places in between. That’s the problem of staying in the same time zone for 300 days – it gives you too much time to dwell on the wider world outside. Still, that’s where the Dreamliner comes in useful.
Of course, I’d better hope I can achieve these trips quickly. I was thinking the other day of the Mayan calendar, and of Michael Coe, who wrote that “there is a suggestion … that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [bʼakʼtun]. Thus … our present universe [would] be annihilated … when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion” (1966, p. 149). The date of this ‘completion’ was set as 21 December 2012, and many people were happy when that date came and went without any major catastrophe. But what if he was a bit dyslexic, and simply got his numbers inverted? Perhaps he really meant 12 December 2021.
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