OK, that title may be just a bit dramatic; maybe ‘a series of unfortunate events’ or ‘a day at the beach is no day at the beach would be better titles.
My landlady has (finally) left on her bicycle trip, leaving me in custody of her two houses and her dog. (Oh, yeah, did I mention I have a dog now?)
I had been looking forward to this day for weeks: a sunny day with the cottage to myself: The dog and I would play at the beach, followed by lobster and a glass or two of crisp chardonnay at the cottage, then I’d be rocked to sleep by the oldest house on Ship Harbour. With the exception of the beach, which was lovely, the scene did not play out as scripted.
On the way out, I gassed up. It doesn’t matter what gas station you go to, the price is set by the province and costs the same everywhere. I have been having some confusion with the gas pumps. When you pre pay at the pump, you select the amount of cash you want to spend, and the pump stops when you arrive at that amount. I am used to just plugging the hose in and having it stop when the tank is full. My landlady tells me that you can fill up this way, but I haven’t figured out how to do that. Anyway, the last time I put $30 in, and I got about a quarter tank. So I decided to put $40 in. I had heard that gas prices had gone down, but a shift from $1.29 to $1.24 per litre means little to me, and I wasn’t really paying attention until I felt something wet on my foot. Gasoline had overflowed the tank and was running down the side of the car and soaking into the fabric of my Tevas! Apparently there is no auto shutoff on the gas hose when the tank is full. Also, none of those handy wipes to clean your gas-smelling hands, as I am used to. The amount of gas in the car was $39.65, so I was curious as to what the amount on the receipt would say, but, alas, no receipt was forthcoming. So I drove away with a full tank and a gassy smell. Got a couple of bugs at the pound (one for dinner, one for lobster salad with leftover wild rice) and pulled up to the cottage.
I had several pages of opening and closing chores, and entered the cellar to turn on the water pump and boiler. I banged my head, hard, on a metal duct, which should have been padded or something (my landlady is a good ten inches shorter than I, so she probably clears the duct.) I had trouble turning on the water pump; I kept going to the kitchen to run water and nothing was coming out. Back to the cellar (not hitting myself this time!) I turned one of the switches I had already turned once. The pump started right away, so I am thinking that my landlady did not turn it off when she left. The one thing left to do was to turn on the gas, but I didn’t need to do that right away. I rubbed my sore forehead and sat down with a cold cider.
Outside, it was sunny but also incredibly buggy. The recent rains have left optimal breeding grounds for all of the little nuisances, and they were flying, hopping and crawling all over me and Max. I looked for a Raid coil–found the burner, but no more coils. I did find some sticks of sandalwood incense; that can be an effective repellent sometime, but not today. There were some really weird looking ants that were part red and part brown and seemed to have an extra abdomen. They bit, too, and I have several tiny itchy bite marks on my feet and ankles (some sort of fire ant hybrid?)
Fine then. Too buggy at the cabin? Time to frapper la plage avec le chien. Off we went, Max had a big doggy grin all the way there and even whined a little bit in excitement when we arrived. This beach is a public beach, absolutely free to all. (I had to compare this to state and national beaches on Cape Cod: Ten dollars to park, maybe a porta potty and no trash barrels (pack it out yourself, please!). This beach had a grill area, changing rooms, showers and toilets, all wheelchair accessible. Did I mention it was free? Oh, yeah, dogs are welcome too. The sign said they needed to be leashed, but Max was tugging so hard, a cut on my finger reopened (great–now I was gonna attract sharks!) My landlady said that it was OK for Max to run here, so once we walked a ways down the beach I let him go. He took off at a run and it became clear to me why even two half hour walks a day were not nearly enough for this dog! He ran and ran and ran, occasionally stopping to smell and pee on a pile of seaweed. He was a blur of white and black (Max is a husky shepherd mix). He would occasionally run into the ocean and flop down, letting the waves wash over him.
Of course, once Max got out his bejeepers, he had to go and make friends. He cheerfully ignored me as he ran the other way down the beach, where the people were. I could see the black and white blur, approaching couples in the sand, smelling them impertinantly, peeing near them and more often than not, getting fed a chip or something. Max was in doggy heaven! I expected people to be angry with me for letting the dog go off leash, but no one was upset. They smiled and said “no problem, nice dog.” People are so nice here.
The sun doesn’t set until around nine this time of year, but the hottest time of day was over. After several hoiks up the beach and back for the salty dog, it was time to go back to the cottage and ‘see about them bugs.’ And this is where, my friends, the good times ended. I must have rubbed my eye in the car, for no sooner were we on the road than my left eye began stinging and burning and watering. I pulled over a couple of times, but I couldn’t see anything, of course. I was definitely “driving impaired” with one hand clapped over my burning eye, while the other eye squinted in sympathy. Finally, I thought to grab an ice cube out of the cooler and hold it against my eye; this helped flush out the sand or salt or whatever it was as it melted. I did overshoot the house though and had to turn back a quarter mile.
My landlady had warned me about the gas barbecue grill out back. She said there was a little leak last year, and if I did use it, “move it well away from the cottage.” Y’OK. I had mused about doing it with charcoal and seaweed, but there wasn’t any charcoal, nor a grill. This cottage could use a firepit, but there wasn’t one of those, either. So aboilin’ it would be, but first I needed to turn on the gas. It was a very old gas oven (with a broken glass in front!) and no auto pilot light. There were three pilots that needed to be lit–two on the stove and one in the oven. The stove was no problem, but try and try as I might, I could not light the oven pilot! I had a box of wooden matches and lit one after the other in a vain attempt to get a catch. I turned the knob for the oven and tried again. I did this until I felt dizzy and realized I was kneeling with my head in an unlit gas oven and that is why I was feeling dizzy. I shut off the propane and let the kitchen air out while I poured a glass of chardonnay and pondered my alternatives. I scoped out the kitchen for some sort of appliance like an electric wok I could use, de nada. Could make a wood fire, but the only graveled part was right next to the house (did I mention it’s the oldest house in the harbour?) and every other spot was either too hilly or too woody, plus I’d have to dig a pit first. No other inspirations were biting, but the bugs sure were, and not the ones in the sink! OK, I don’t like to quit too easily, so I girded my loins and turned the gas back on. The results were almost exactly the same. The difference was this time I was standing and bending over the oven instead of kneeling (safety first!) so this time when I felt woozy I swayed. Swore, turned the gas off and looked at the bugs (the ones in the sink.) They looked back glassily. They had gotten awfully sluggish and might not survive the night. Checked the time-almost seven o’clock. Nothing to do but beat it back to the city.
I felt better immediately once I had made my decision, and started packing out. In taking the recyclables, an empty bottle of cider slipped out and shattered on the flagstone step. Luckily, the dog was inside, but it was vexing to be slowed down by the clean up once I had resolved to leave. Once packed, I went into the cellar to turn off the water and boiler and hit my head again on the bloody duct! I hit it so hard I saw stars.
When I got home, it was eight thirty and I ate my lobster with much less pleasure than I had anticipated. This morning, my head hurts in two places (one dunt was on the top of my head, one on the crown) I have a ring of itchy bug bites on my ankles and three red bites on my face. Meh.