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17. oktober 2009

Canadian Adventure – A Humble Beginning

Filed under: Blandet — Tags: , , , , , , — Henny Stewart @ 23:38

In the Fraser Valley, some 300 kilometers from Vancouver is a small town named Hope. It has been named the Chainsaw Capital of the world, and that perhaps tells you all you need to know about the town of Hope for the moment, although it is not the complete truth about the place. About an hours further drive into the Fraser Valley, where the Valley is quite narrow and the mosquitos are the size of puppy dogs, you’ll find a small location, not a town or a village, so in fact you may not find it at all but go right past it without noticing, but you might find a location called Laidlaw.

Laidlaw is the setting of the tale you are about to hear. Having established a setting, a further description might be in order. Laidlaw in a way seems quite far away from civilization. Yet one is reminded of said civilization at least once an hour, day or night, because a railroad runs through Laidlaw, and seemingly endless freight trains pass with eerie hoots and long lasting rumble. As before mentioned, the valley is not particularly wide at this point, and as if the railroad was not enough, there is also the Trans Canada Highway going through, and the noise from this highway hardly ever abates. Take it from one who has been lying awake in a so called recreational vehicle in Laidlaw for an entire night!

In a white, painted wooden house, we shall find the first set of characters to appear in our tale. The house belongs to a lady who only spends time there, when there have been no better offers, so she will not appear in the story. The house belonged to her father and upon his death she inherited it. The people who now live in the house have some, if not a lot, connection to the lady. One is a thin, gaunt, you might even say emaciated man of some 45 years, although he may be older or younger, he is hard to place. He does not look well. Although we are in the middle of summer, he seems to be terribly cold always. For years, he has made it a habit to dress in many layers. Fewer layers in the summer, more in the winter, but never less than three layers. In spite of this padding, he still looks extremely thin. He is a quiet and unassuming man, but not without character. He is very fussy when it comes to tea, and he always carries a big thermos cup around with him, even when he goes to a restaurant to have breakfast.

For people from other parts of the world it may seem a bit strange to mention that people go out for breakfast. Those people should know that breakfast is the only meal that is really worth bothering with in the restaurants in those parts. Those breakfasts, on the other hand, are very good and will easily keep you going till mid-afternoon. Now that we know a few personal details about this man, a proper introduction might be in order. His name was Russell. Was – for he is with us no more – alas.

Another characteristic of Russell’s was that he was an avid collector. He did not collect stamps, butterflies, ball-point pens or little things like that. His collection consisted of motorized vehicles of any sort and description, from a yellow school bus to a tow truck with a huge crane on it. Now, Russell was by no means wealthy, so he obtained the objects in his collection at a time when they had very little value or attraction to anybody else. The problem of paying insurance and registration on the approximately 30 vehicles parked round the house at any given time, he dealt with rationally and efficiently. He simply had one set of number plates that he would attach to whichever car he was taking out for the day. The plan was that if the police should call this practice into question, he would simply tell them that he had just bought the vehicle that very same day and was bringing it home.

Why he needed all these cars, nobody knew. Least of all his landlady, who spent as little time at the house as possible, the few years Russell was staying there. The house itself inside would best be characterized as being in the pile-on-pile style, the many piles having built up over the years. Some piles consisting almost solely of Russell’s belongings, in his own words: “stuff”, some left behind by his predecessors and deemed possibly too valuable to discard. For instance, here was a pile of 3 old television sets in the upstairs bathroom. Being a collector is probably a virus, and once you have it, you’ll never get rid of it again.

In the house there are also traces of a distinctive taste, namely that of the original kind of hippie, none of your contemporary eco-hippie. At some point somebody painted garish murals on every available bit of wall, and since nobody bothered to paint them over again, the aforementioned piles serve an extra purpose of obscuring parts of the murals. Some genius had the brainwave of covering the kitchen floor with a child’s giant jigsaw tiles, made out of foam rubber in primary colours. The idea must have been to brighten up the place and provide a soft and comfortable floor. The idea was not well thought through, however, as spills and other accidents that regurlarly occur in a kitchen are very hard to clear off the porous surface, which accordingly now is rather worse for wear.