Wednesday, 7 December 2016

More on Pauline and Johan

Rereading my previous post, I realized I had forgotten about some important bits, especially as relates to biking. I hadn't been particularly close to Pauline, more or less because their kids weren't my age. So it was a revelation when Johan gave a very good eulogy at her memorial service in the Unitarian Church in North Hatley. (The last time I had been in that room was for Olivier's baptism!)  He told the story of how they had met, something I had never heard before.

Fate evidently intended them to be together as you could not write this as fiction. Pauline had gone on a bike trip in Scotland with a friend of hers. Johan had been hitchhiking around Britain with a friend of his. Johan and his friend needed to split up for a while but made arrangements to meet up in Killin in Scotland on such and such a day. The choice of Killin was determined by throwing a dart at a map of the UK(!) and then checking to see if there was a youth hostel nearby. There was and that was were Pauline and Johan met, Johan's friend having failed to get there. It may not have been love at first sight (though it could have been) but at the very least, Johan was attracted to Pauline sufficiently to pursue a relationship which led to what seems to me as a successful marriage, though one cut too short.

One of the things that struck me was that I more or less knew where Killin was having biked near it on not one but two bike trips in Scotland.  I have since looked it up and it lies roughly midway between Crianlarirch and Kenmore. On my first bike trip in Scotland, I rode within 5 kms of it!

Another thing that struck me was just how positive a person Johan* is and has always been in my view. It is too easy to be negative or to fall into the trap of negative statements. Lately at work, I have been often asked if such and such a minor schedule change would be acceptable. I have striven to avoid responding with "No problem" and instead have written "Fine by me". I would like to hold up Johan as an example of positivity.

So, hear's to Pauline and Johan!

* Addendum, dated 2017-10-03. In considering Johan's optimism, it must be pointed that he is old enough to have suffered through and remembers the Hunger Winter.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

On European cyclists

For the second time this fall, I have hauled Floria up the stairs to my bike storage area in anticipation of snow. Who knows if the forecast snow will stick, but I getting the point where I tend towards the preemptive.

I am in the process of watching the Suzuki Diaries featuring David Suzuki and his daughter travel around Europe by train and observing various ecofriendly features such as Copenhagen's bike culture. This made me think on an incident (possibly exaggerated) from my youth. As I was growing up, there was a Dutch family up the road with which my family was friends. (Olivier, with whom I stayed in Corner Brook, is a member of said family.)  The mother of the family, Pauline, died recently, which partly explains the "why" of this post.

At some point in the early 1980s, the one set of the family's grandparents (i.e. the grandparents' of "my" generation of the family) came over for a visit. I believe they were Pauline's parents, but I can't be sure.  In any case, the story came out that the Opa (Dutch for Grandfather) borrowed Johan's (the father) bicycle and rode downtown.  As many of my readers may know, North Hatley is in a valley and the slopes are significant. Opa zoomed down the hill to centre of the village and is said to have said: "What a wonderful country for biking!" He struggled back up the hill, whereupon he is said to have said: "Canada is no country for bikes!"  From what little I know of him, I gather he would have been saying so facetiously. In any event, the story was related to me as such.

However, on much later reflection, I am intrigued by the fact that he would have borrowed a bike in the first place. The distance between the house and downtown is less than a kilometre and easy walking distance. Yet he casually chose to bike it. Looking back, none of my grandparents would have chosen to ride a bike around North Hatley, even Granny M., who was very active and with whom I biked around Stanley Park when I was 10. (I once skied to church (in North Hatley) and back with her on a particularly snowy Christmas morning in the late 1970s.)  My point is that Opa riding the bike was, in its own way, quietly remarkable for North America in the early 1980s, but probably utterly unremarkble for the Netherlands. And yet, as a child, I didn't think it remarkable aside from the funny comment on Canadian hills coming from a Dutchman.