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  • Skis and coyness

    Cross country skiing kicked my ass - I can go up, but not come down (except in a very undignified fashion). But I’ll be back, and it’s another load of kit for me to lust after.

    Work this week has been largely non-Canada related, as I keep my hand in with Map wheels

    Got a funky digital map wheel that counts the kms for me. And there look to be many. The route is making itself clear to me, which is very satisfying if not a little scary. Still can’t quite believe that I’ll be arriving in Newfoundland in June, with so much other stuff going on.

    Away at the weekend - Roswell, White Sands, Cloudcroft, snow, desert, military towns and astrochimps.

  • Famine and Feasts

    Despite nine years in Dublin, I’d never sat down and read a long account of the Famine. Good thing too, in many ways. After a couple of days trawling through the horror stories, I came to the conclusion that any book on emigration would only be about death, poverty and pain. That visiting Saint John in New Brunswick or Grosse Isle near Quebec City would feel like a trip to the morgue.
    Fortunately, things looked better in the morning - those who arrived in Canada in the late 1840s might have had few options, and many died trying, but it behoves the survivors (and their descendants, myself included) to live on as large as we can. And write about the good stuff and the bad stuff side by side.

    Spent the afternoon wearing my hack’s hat, researching a newsletter on web content. A feast of interesting websites, information architecture blogs and some mad vocab. After work on the book, it feels like another world, but it’s one I’m pretty familiar with, too. A weird collision.

  • Routes you, sir

    Finally feel I’m getting somewhere with the route. The latest book, Flight from Famine by Donald Mackay details the successive waves of emigration from Ireland to Canada, and from it there’s a pattern emerging that matches what looks like a good bike journey with a historical reason for being there.

    There’s an incredible amount of info on the Peter Robinson-led and government-backed emigrations of 1823 and 1825. Although these were atypical, being funded by the British govt, the specificity of people, place and story mean it’ll be great to follow them from Co. Cork to what became Peterborough, a little north of Lake Ontario.

    In non-work news, still shaking my head of Michael Jackson’s weirdly naive and frightening performance in Martin Bashir’s adroit documentary last week. Give some people enough rope. . .

    And after a particularly intense spinning session yesterday, I’m wondering if getting your heart rate to 208 bpm can be good for you.

  • The Danger Tree

    Just finished one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The Danger Tree by David Macfarlane mixes family history, memory and research into a deeply moving portrait of Newfoundland and the effects of war.

    Three of his great-uncles died in the First World War, and with great skill and wisdom, he tells their stories and the stories of those left behind. And the island of Newfoundland itself becomes a character, with all its barren beauty, heartache and missed chances. A beautiful and at times very funny book, and riveting.

    In more prosaic news, Powells has become my new US-based online bookshop of choice, with all the stuff I wanted that Amazon didn’t have, or said they had and then couldn’t send me. And it feels good to be supporting an independent bookseller. What I wanted was a pile of maps, and a book about the Irish in Canada.

  • Haircuts and LA

    Back after a weekend in LA - hence no blogging (must investigate some mobile solutions). Prior to my departure I went for a haircut here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was in a jewellery shop - past the cabinets and into the back room with the chair. Robert did a nice job on my hair, and told me about the Middle Eastern guys who were attacking the US where it hurts - in its jewellery market. He’d called the Feds and the CIA about it, and either he was completely mad, or there’s a lot to be said for his observations. Or both.

    Which is why you should always get your haircut when you’re visiting somewhere - like taxi drivers, barbers always know what’s going on.

    And thence to LA. Yes to Venice Beach (and Amelia’s great coffee and panini). Yes to air hockey on Santa Monica Pier. Yes to Philippe’s french dip sandwiches, and a big yes to Union Station. Birds singing, moist thick air, temps in the high 80s in early Feb, palm trees and the madness of Beverly Hills.

    And The Grove, a frightening example of the privatisation of public space, corporate co-option of small-town American symbols, and commodification of community - a whole fake streetscape with an Abercrombie and Fitch where the town hall should be, musical fountains and a neighbourhood Italian restaurant seen through the eyes of money men.

    Back to Canada work today.