Monday, 30 July 2012

Epic Bike Trip Around the Maritimes, Step 9: Knock on doors- you never know what you'll find inside

(Editor's note: somehow this post got written but not posted - it should slot in between Step 8 and Step 10 - apologies!)

Coming out of Digby, I took a wrong turn. Nova Scotia has a very capricious attitude towards road signs. I'd spent the day on the ferry, and I had fish and chips in Digby, so I had a lot of energy and happiness to spend on going the wrong way, but it was late, and by 6:30pm, I'd only made it to Bear River.  Bear River has an adorable cafe on stilts and a mammoth hill on either side. I was inching my way out of the valley when my bike fell over and that was that. I was done for the day. But what to do? I was at least 15k short of the campground.
The house across the street had a brown dog out front which didn't bark at me and didn't wag, but just stared. It also had a huge garden and a man out back was mowing.
"Hello! Hello!" I called, walking right up the drive to the back garden. Goodness, I was bold. "I'm biking around the Maritimes and I don't think I'll make my campground tonight. Could I set my tent up on your lawn?"
"Of course! If you can find a patch of grass that'll suit you, you're more than welcome to it. I'll go and tell the wife."
The wife came out presently and introduced herself as Lucille. She told me in a very matter of fact way that I was welcome to come on in and use the facilities and the phone.  Or the computer. Or to have supper. Or just to talk. I'd have to excuse the state of the house, though. She'd just had a heart attack and spent three weeks in the hospital for the surgery, and hadn't gotten to the housekeeping yet. Oh dear, and here I was imposing!
The house was indeed cluttered, but in a comfortable sort of way: plants all over the kitchen, a glassed-in cabinet with encyclopedias, a book shelf with a set of National Geographics dating back to 1914,  and on top of those, a stack of long rectangular boxes containing reels for the player piano, which needed new tubing, unfortunately. Lucille started telling me the history of the house: it was over 150 years old. It had belonged to her mother, who had died recently, leaving her the house, the astonishing collection of stuff it contained, and a half-feral cat. The house had twenty-two rooms, and all but six had books.
"Would you like to see the museum?"
"What?" I said.
"Upstairs. My mother had a museum. I'd like to show it to you." In for a penny, in for a mile, I thought.
We trooped upstairs, passing a shelf of green army helmets in the front hall and a costume worn in the movie Ben Hur on the way. Asia was first: a small room with at least five clothes racks crammed full of outfits from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand, as well as Turkey, Israel, Afghanistan, and many places I've forgotten. There were glass display cases filled with intricate jewelry, a shelf with reference books relating to that part of the world, and walls covered in masks.
We spent an age looking at everything and only saw a fraction of it. Then we moved on to room 6: Americana. Here, there were army uniforms and a collection of artifacts from a pacific island collected when a grandfather was on leave during the war. There were sweet, faded summer dresses with girlish rosettes, and top hats, and a gold velvet opera cape, and a black silk opera cape from 1890. There was Judy Garland's coat- was she in the Wizard of Oz? Again, we only saw a fraction, and then it was off to the next room for Europe! Germany, Hungary, Greece, Serbia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Holland, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain...She had more than one bullfighter's costume- they are extraordinarily heavy!
In between, we saw the Bear River Collection, with photographs dating back generations and great-grandad's red coat- he wad a British army regular stationed in Bear River. We ended off in Mexico, and what astounded me most was not the collection, although that was astonishing enough, but the people who had collected it. Lucille's mother and father, who apparently had never traveled a day in their lives, surrounded themselves with footloose friends in sunny southern California, and these friends globe trotted all through the fifties and sixties, bringing back treasures to the museum
By the end of the tour, I was dog tired. It was way past my bedtime. With the promise of farm fresh eggs the next morning, I went out to my tent and promptly fell asleep. Knock on doors- who knows what extraordinary things you'll find inside.

1 comment:

  1. What a story! I bet you asked a lot of questions too, to get the information.