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Trinity, Newfoundland – Seldom (2002)

17 Nov

Well, it took me three days to get here (read my previous post, if you haven’t already), but it was worth it.

Trinity is simply beautiful. It used to be the centre of a busy fishery, but now it’s a heritage town, with lots of very picturesque historic buildings, and a busy theatre festival, Rising Tide’s Seasons in the Bight.

I’m staying at Maidment House, which was built in 1892. It’s been lovingly restored, with the emphasis on local crafts – the bed, the quilts, the soaps are all made locally. Even the pretty leaf keyring for my room key was made at the forge just across the street. Karen (who runs the place) is hospitality itself. She makes the most amazing breakfasts, a different one every day. Normally when it comes to breakfast I’m a toast and coffee kind of girl, but they’re so good I try to eat as much as I can.

In fact, everyone here seems very hospitable. I’m out walking one day when a man says “You’d be that English girl that’s staying with Karen”
How did he know? Because he didn’t recognise me. Everyone knows everyone here. His wife has just made biscuits, so I’m invited in to try them. The next day I come across someone frying fish, and I’m invited to try that as well. Just two hours ago it was in the ocean – fish doesn’t get much fresher than that!

I love it here, though it might not be for everyone. There are some shops, restaurants (where you can watch icebergs drift by), a small marina – but it’s an hour’s drive if you want fresh fruit. And if you want to get a signal on a mobile phone, you have to walk to the top of a hill. I do, and finally get an update from home – I now have a new nephew, and all is well. I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, and start enjoying myself.

I go to several performances, all good. There’s a lot of artistic talent here. The New Founde Land Trinity Pageant makes particularly good use of the unique setting, where storytellers lead the audience around the town, and different historical episodes are re-enacted at each stop.

One play (a comedy) features a scene where campers exit, pursued by bear. There are screams backstage and everyone laughs – until someone comes back onstage and asks if there’s a doctor in the house. The bear has tripped over and broken his nose – luckily there are two doctors in the audience, so they look after him until the ambulance arrives (nearly an hour – the one drawback to living somewhere off the beaten track).

From fake wildlife to the real thing – there’s a whale-watching tour nearby. I’m interested in this one as they use a Zodiac. Apparently because it’s inflated, rather than having a solid hull, whales seem to regard it as sea life, and come closer than they would to a normal boat. Of course, being inflated means that if it hits a submerged rock, you’re in trouble, so we have to put on survival suits.

I now look like a fun balloon animal. Any whale watching me will probably die laughing. But off we go. And it seems to be true about the Zodiac, as several dolphins join us shortly after we set off. They stay with us, leaping alongside, until we pick up speed. A couple of humpback whales have been spotted in the area – we don’t see them, but we do come across a fin whale (the second largest whale after the blue whale). I’ve never seen one before, so that’s a real treat.

Next day I go hiking on the Skerwink Trail. It’s a slightly drizzly day, so I have the place almost to myself. Then I hear something breathing – something big. I make my muddy way through the trees (past a sign reading ‘Danger – Unstable Cliffs’) and lean over the edge. In the bay at the bottom of the cliffs are two humpback whales – the breathing I heard was them spouting. They are totally oblivious to me, so I can stand and watch for as long as I like, without worrying that I’m bothering them. Beautiful.

It’s so quiet here – and very dark once a play ends and the audience drives away. Luckily that means it’s time to read. Maidment House has a bookcase full of Newfoundland books, including Seldom, by Dawn Rae Downton (2002). Seldom is an outport on Fogo Island, not too far from Trinity, so it seems like an appropriate choice.

It’s the story of the author’s grandmother, who loved a man who was lost at sea – so she married his handsome, charming brother instead. Unfortunately he turned out to be jealous, devious and violent. But she stayed with him, trying to keep the family together, because that’s what people did – bandaging up the wounds, and telling the school the child was off with a fever. In small towns, where everyone knows everyone, it’s interesting what people choose not to know.

This makes it sound depressing – and it’s not always an easy read. I would have enjoyed it more if it were fiction. But it’s well-written, with loads of little details of daily life back then. The book spans the first half of the twentieth century, giving a history of the island as a whole, as well as the central family,. There’s no attempt made to excuse or justify the grandfather’s behaviour – it’s just another threat in a harsh environment, like the sea or the snow. But despite the harshness, love managed to flourish between the six children and their mother.

And reading it here, where you can see Newfoundland at its best, is the ideal setting.

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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in Canada, Newfoundland

 

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