Salt Spring Island
19 May 2008
I’m in Canada and today the sun is shining.
For those with more time or with more boring jobs:
I’ve been in Ganges, Salt Spring Island, for exactly 32 hours and I have already had lunch on the site of my great-great grandfather’s home (which is now a golf club..as in building where people who play golf gather, not a five-iron…) and seen cherry trees he planted, met a 94 year old cousin who remembers my mother and grandmother, had afternoon tea with an artist/campaigner in her 70’s, met a current captain of BC Ferries and a retired one, had dinner in a converted gas station, been to see a very good pro/am theatre production of ‘Born Yesterday’, had a full Dutch breakfast, had lunch with Sue Mouat – writer of several books on Salt Spring and daughter of a pioneer family, been given 100 pages of handwritten (photocopied) text written by my great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother about life in 1892, been to a rehearsal of Faure Requiem by a local choir, and had local halibut for dinner.
Before that, I spent two packed days in Vancouver, going up Grouse mountain (in a cable car, heaven forbid I should be able to walk any of this food off), seeing grizzly bears in the snow, walking on the beach, eating prawns and Salt Spring mussels, then 4 days around Nanaimo, meeting cousins, eating out, seeing photos of my grandmother’s wedding which I have never seen, holding a piece of the HMS Ganges, and trying (and failing) to get a grip on the names and relationships of the seemingly infinite cousins out here. It doesn’t help when Pat Crofton is married to Pat Crofton.
Western British Columbia is possibly the exact opposite of India and Bangladesh. People are scarce and are too polite to come and ask me what I’m doing when I’m sketching, forests are thick and vast, food is plentiful and generally pretty fattening, but at least you can get a good coffee. In fact, Salt Spring Island has its own, I assume it is shipped in and ground here as I have yet to see a coffee bush.
The natives (very few of them actually born here) are friendly and come from all over the globe, but then Salt Spring has a history of that as its first permanent settlers after the seasonal camps of the First Nations people came from over 15 countries, including freed slaves from the United States. And I am not the first person to link Ganges, France with Ganges, Canada, as my host, a Dutch immigrant, was sent a postcard of the town in France in 1998 by her son – it’s odd to see pictures of somewhere so familiar on the other side of the world.
Needless to say I am being well-fed, I may have to pay excess baggage on the flight home, and welcomed extremely warmly by everyone I meet. I send you love and bright May sunshine and wish you all a Happy Victoria Day for tomorrow (today for you already).