Friendship needn’t be of long duration to be deeply rooted and blithe. In just a few years Amherst Shore, just inside the New Brunswick border on Nova Scotia’s balmy Northumberland Shore, has become a favourite destination. It is at Amherst Shore we are accorded a gold-standard welcome by Garth and Carole. Just as if we are people cherished and well regarded.
The first morning is an inclement one but that is not a problem: everyone is compelled to offer at least one proposal for a rainy day activity. Mine I consider worthy: an historical ramble among the headstones at Amherst’s old cemetery, perhaps with umbrellas in hand. The suggestion gets no support whatsoever. Another idea, Jan’s, carries the day unanimously: let’s go bowling. Garth actually does bowl, regularly, but for the rest of us an errant gutter ball is but a distant memory. The sympathetic custodian of the Amherst alley suggests we might appreciate the lane to the far right – the one meant principally for children, with bumper-deflectors in the gutters, kind-hearted devices ensuring that no ball is wasted, no tender ego trashed before its time.
The ensuing action offered further evidence – as if additional proof were necessary – that a 70-year-old body is no facsimile of its teenaged antecedent. We played two strings. Even with the deflectors I managed only a 62 in the first string but improved all the way to 71 in the second. The best score was Jan’s 95. Always uxorious, pride in my mate’s prowess swelled all the more. Garth and I established an exclusive new secret society, the Club of One. In the same frame, despite the gutter deflectors, we felled just a single pin. How is that possible? Three balls, no gutters, one pin. My submission: if we tried to repeat the feat it couldn’t be done.
Bowling evidently uses muscles untested by other activities. The following day and for two more thereafter I couldn’t walk painlessly. Thigh muscles grumbled loudly especially on downward steps. Who knew that two strings of bowling could be as taxing as an assault on Everest.
We celebrated Canada Day at Pugwash, where salt is still mined and the street signs are bilingual – English and Gaelic – a place Cyrus Eaton made world-famous in the 1950s and 60s. We patronized the community market then joined the madding crowd of patriots sporting maple leaf tattoos and waving paper flags.
Cyrus Eaton was a native Pugwashian – is that a valid word? – who made his fortune as an industrialist in Cleveland, Ohio, a place now best known as the playground of the incomparable LeBron James. Cyrus earned the undying enmity of the American right wing by dedicating himself to disarmament and reducing the threat of nuclear obliteration. He organized regular conferences of scientists and thinkers from both sides of the Iron Curtain, seeking to replace trust and cooperation for suspicion and animosity. He was reviled as a commie dupe for his efforts. We went to Eaton’s Thinkers’ Lodge, studied the interpretive panels, quietly paid homage to the great peace-seeker.
Chez Christie is a magnet for crowds of friends and relatives. Our pals have three children each having three of their own: nine grandchildren if you’ve been paying attention. The steady flow of young ‘uns persuades even a lazy observer that G & C must be pretty good grandparents.
Friends drop by too. I was particularly enchanted by two, brothers. One is a big fan of Donald Trump, the other quite the opposite. Gentle reader, you will be able to deduce which I preferred.
Jan has a hard-and-fast rule: like fish, visits have a natural three-day limit. Our hosts tried mightily to persuade us that no such rule applies in our case but we departed anyway, consoling ourselves that the next time we moot an appearance at Amherst Shore the welcome mat might still be out.