The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

I had crossed over to the west coast of the US and was heading for Seattle. Not realizing how close Vancouver was to the US border, in fact since my America trip, came about as an opportunity rather than any grand plan, on a whim, most of the time I was ‘lost in America’, so decide to take a look across the border. I still find it surprising how easy it was at that time to travel around North America, no planning, no visa, no questions asked, no one seemed to take any notice of a lad on a bike, how simple life was then. Sitting in the cafe with the local rag open at the adverts, I read that someone was looking for a caretaker for a marina, possibly a stipulation of the insurance company. “I could do that,” I said to myself. It had been a long trip practical without a break and I felt the need to settle for a while, also the weather was changing, winter was on its way.

The marina turned out to be on the Fraser River delta, and rather down at heel. I had a small flat above the workshop that overlooked the many sloughs and islands. When the fog swept in and Grey Heron croaked through the gloom or the Greek in his little blue and white gillnetter sailed up the river, with its one lung engine phut, phuting and Greek music spilling out over the water it was a magical place.

The flat had a sisal carpet on the floor which was a breading ground for fleas brought in by the owner of the flat, a scruffy dog that made in clear from the start that I was the lodger. Rising in the morning and depositing bare feet and legs onto the carpet caused the fleas to leap on board, but only as high as ones knees, I guess they were afraid of heights. A little old Volkswagen was part of the marina’s equipment, and at my disposal. This also turned out to be a flea infested bug and when I gave hitch-hikers a lift it came with a pre-empted flea warning. When I first moved in I did try and eradicate the little blighter’s but my efforts proved futile and in the end we just had to accept the reality of life, they were here to stay.

The leaves fall in the slightest breeze,

Jack Frost, the morning air will tease,

Winter is now on its way,

Still it may kill off the fleas.

The idyllic life came to an abrupt end when the marina was sold on to a consortium that turned it into a timeshare yacht paradise for like-minded yuppies. Anyway, the worst of the weather was over and spring was not far off, and my feet were already starting to itch. With the place tidied up and a few yachts alongside the flat was turned into a glitzy office. Unfortunately, the bugs continued to make the place their home, much I was told (I kept in touch with a friend that I acquired during my stay) to the discomfort of their glamorous secretaries. That’s poetic justice at its best.

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