or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Jim and I were in Newfoundland on a pleasure trip for a few days, which is my excuse for not having posted. I suppose I could have: Jim has a little tiny computer, an Asus EEE (or possibly Eee, or eee)

and I could have written using that. But I didn't. It's hard to get a sense of proportion from this picture, but it's very small, not much larger than a trade paperback, and the keyboard is really teeny, and it would take some getting used to. Plus, not a Mac.


Growing up on an island shapes you. The world seems very small, encompassed by shores, and very big and unreachable. It seems to be both of these things at the same time.

When my father took us four children to Disney World in Florida in 1974, he bought a car down there (with the idea of reselling it back in Canada) and drove us all back home. Being driven from state to state, and finally into Canada itself, I was perpetually astounded to discover that you can simply go to other places with scarcely any trouble at all. (My grandmother, his mother, left the province only a few times in her entire life, as far as I know; she never got on a plane until she was in her sixties.) Even today, there's a small rockbound childhood part of me that can hardly believe such a thing is possible. When I get on a plane to Newfoundland, or take the train from Bath to Cardiff, or drive from Saint John to Calais, Maine, there's an eight-year-old that's saying, "No way!"


This is a picture of Cape Spear, the easternmost point of Newfoundland, and therefore of Canada. There is, as Wikipedia tells us, "currently a dispute as to whether Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America." Fine. Whatever. It may not be the easternmost point of the continent, but on Saturday, as I was sitting on these very rocks, embedded in a profound quiet save for the surf growling and smacking the rocks below, the sun warming but not harsh, the green life clinging stubbornly to every surface that would have it, the horizon a distant haze, so broad you fancied you could see the planet's curvature, I knew beyond any doubt that I was sitting on the most beautiful place on the face of the Earth.


St. John's is very hilly. Very hilly. Here's a shot from Duckworth Street down to Water Street, next to the Courthouse. The stairs are a concession to people in judicial robes, I suppose; most of the time, it's just steep streets you're expected to traverse, somehow.

We had a car, but still I walked up and down and all around the town, and as a consequence, my injured knee and ankle, fairly close to being healed, I think, have suffered a bit of a relapse. I think they will heal, but not quite yet. Just so you know.


Among our perambulations was a walk around Quidi Vidi Lake. One of the various signboards around the lake speculates as to the origins of the name: there are some twenty possibilities, most of which seemed to me at the time--I didn't write them down, and I didn't get Jim to take a picture of the sign--improbable in the extreme, mostly a sort of folk etymology. The name looks pretty Latinate, but philologist E.R. Seary was of the opinion that it came from a French name, Quédville or Quetteville, and I guess he would know.

Quidi Vidi is usually pronounced "kiddie viddie" (my pronunciation) or "kitty vitty", sometimes "quiddy viddy", but I knew people who pronounced it, for real, "KWY-duh VY-duh". I honestly don't know how that schwa could have come from the terminal "-i" in each word, because in English, when you end a word with that sound, it's going to be long, but there you have it.

Here's a sign around Quidi Vidi that I did get Jim to take a picture of.

And here's a closer view.

And you can easily see why I got him to photograph it. The word "internment" is darkened, and what obviously happened is that the sign was typeset incorrectly; someone after my own heart applied a correction to it; and that correction eventually weathered and peeled away, not only exposing the original error but highlighting it. There's a lesson in this.

"Intern" as a verb means "to confine or restrict", and it is related to "internal", "within", from Latin "internus". "Inter", on the other hand, means "to bury", and it is formed from Latin "in-" plus "terra", "earth". The two words, despite their surface similarity, are unrelated.


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