Jack Serle

Canadian thanksgiving, a feast of visitors

In Suisse on October 25, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Hospitality is prized by many tribes around the world. Apparently in the Southern United States it is a thing particular to and much celebrated by the persons of that region. Having never been there I cannot really say however I imagine it means while the banjo music twangs ominously in the valley a guest is given a head start. A local on the other hand is just set upon where they stand by hillbillies in various states of undress.

Canadians, those snowey yanks from north of the boarder, excel when it comes to the hospitality stakes. Be it the Bearded Publisher, The Renegade, Chat Poisson, my glamorous francophonic fellow hacks or The Genius*; my friends from great frozen wastes of Ontario are all jolly good eggs. As long as you can prize the poutine and maple syrup out of their mitts, that is, before a sugar and cheese-curd mania descends.

Their eyes glaze with maple juice and deep fried sin, they grip your arm and talk you into water skiing on a pair of planks made for a vertically challenged eight year old. When a powerful boat pulls forward on the line and each foot shoots off unchecked, splaying legs away from the wake, the pain is considerable. Least said of this misadventure the better but head my advice: don’t water ski.

This aquatic aside aside the residents of Canada are well ensconced in my bosom. This being so, happy was I when not three weeks ago I trotted up to my latest Canadian friend’s flat for something altogether better than many other things: Thanksgiving. This national holiday has a longer history than its US equivalent. It is the day when a nation comes together to hug, wear red checked woollen shirts and give thanks for the mighty beaver. Food source, hat source, marital aid; upon a mammal a nation was founded.

A Quakerish C pauses to give her thanks for everything directly to the Almighty

Victuals were provided and arrived in many forms. There were comestibles shaped like chicken, some shaped like wine and of course a great big pumpkin pie.

*****

Two weeks pass by from this thankful evening and a Friday came to pass. There was a chill wind blowing across the city of Geneva and it was said an owl was seen sat in the middle of a supermarket at lunchtime.

That night there was a visitation. The Albanian did come. Accompanied by Vic and with AD the three of them were joined by me and our driver The Watchmaker for a journey to the town of Neuchatel. There we did meet with Ruks and The Banker. The occasion was The Banker’s imminent departure to Washington. She is setting off on a career that will end in her being crowned Empress of somewhere if not everywhere.

To celebrate her passing to the West we the assembled masses did drink and make merry. With gusto we did revel. There was wine, women and song. There were closely contested word games similar to Scrabble. It was a wild affair. In town we did go to sup at a local tavern. There we met some ruddy local types and they entertained us greatly.

Never before and I feel never again will I ever hear two lusty francophones sing “Un Arab! Un Arab! Un Arab!” to the tune of that particularly imaginative football chant “‘Ere We Go! ‘Ere We Go! ‘Ere We Go!”. What prompted this is still something of a mystery to me but I believe it was something to do with mistaking the heritage of The Albanian.

Furthermore I doubt I will again be invited to partake in a gang bang, or I should say “gong bong”, in a church. The glorious hymn and this unparalleled offer of ecclesiastical rumpy-pumpy were forthcoming only after Ruks had been propositioned. She was invited to share one of the local types’ bed. A mechanic, he re-tools Vauxhall Corsas with hideously engorged stereos and enters competitions to see who can produce the loudest noise. His is like a jet plane he said. Astonishingly his advances were demurely declined by young Ruks.

There was time to promenade around this most beauteous lake, home to the Phillip Morris Cigarette Company. Promenade we did and with some glee we found ourselves in Neuchatel proper. A charming seeming town it went unexplored as we had a date with a supermarket. This being Switzerland such places close on time; 5pm to be precise which they are.

On the Sunday God did decide our slumber should not be disturbed by any early morning sunlight so sent a dense cloud to blanket us in our slumber. Come afternoon and with the dense blanket still pressed up against our windows like a duvet smothering a dolls house we decided to venture into the sunlit uplands, to enjoy the view.

Switzerland (partial view)

Besides pausing for brief altercations over the location of the tomb of  Mary Magdalene, our progress was steady.

When The Watchmaker declared the true resting place of the wife of Christ to be at the foot of Blackpool Tower, The Albanian took exception

As our little party mooched through the pine trees and pastures of this sunny land we came across a whzened and bizarre gentleman, not unlike this old man. He sat there a-cackling and a-chuckling as we approached. His blind eyes could not perceive us yet he followed us as we walked abreast to his shack. Most startling, he listed our names with a fluent ease that belies a mischievous witchcraft or second sight of some kind.

Having adressed us each in turn he licked his cracked lips and chuckled to himself before saying: “Have ye an interest in the naughty spirit, that most lascivious of beverages, the fey verte?”

At this The Watchmaker’s ears pricked up. “Absinthe you say? Have you some old man?” **

“No young lady, I do not. But I know of a place not far from here,” replied the grey-muzzled creature. “Not far at all. It is in a glade, in a valley, but two and twenty meters from this spot. Follow the green faeries, they will guide you.” And with a great belch of noxious smoke and a cackle like dried twigs being snapping in a shower cubicle he was gone.

We were silent. Struck dumb we looked at one another, eyes wide with joy. A quest! A quest had been dumped in our path. At once we set off in search of this bountiful fountain. Little did we know that our mysterious guide was well off on his time estimate. After at least half an hour of stomping up and down steep muddy paths in the gathering gloaming we were about to give up. As we began to look homeward there was like a parting of the night’s shroud and dawn passed into our minds. Before us in a small wooded glade stood a glittering apparition. A fountain and with it, sweet nectar, most of a bottle of absinthe. Our praises rung out through the treetops.

The magical cache of that sinful aniseed juice

With our discovery came a much needed rest. The bottle was broached, the aniseed goodness dolled out. There was much rejoicing.

The peaks that are the abundant charms of a weekend away alas must be mirrored by the cavernous trough that is the start of the working week. The Watchmaker, in a generous spirit, offered to take Vic and The Albanian to meet their flight. Not wanting to spend a moment longer trespassing on our hostess The Banker’s hospitality before she departed for Washington I decided to fill the car’s final berth. A departure of 5am was one that I was ruing but was happy to stomach. With that ended one of the best weekends.

* She who walks a tight line between sane genetics PhD student and demented maniac in a white coat surrounded by the un-Godly products of her meddling with nature

** He said this in French obviously, being a watchmaker and therefore Swiss. I have handily translated because I am nice

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