Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Or, Tittynoping Tales from a Tavern Fox

Theolonius McTavish, a trivial talkingstock (an Old English term for an object of conversation) who inevitably forgets the punch-lines to knock-knock jokes and consequently is rarely offered free drinks by pub patrons unless they are woebegone and desperate for the companionship of a somewhat cabobbled, copper-nosed cronk (i.e. a mystified, jolly-nosed, gossiping sort of soul who frequently inhabits smoke-filled haunts with bad lighting and belching balladeers as the only form of nightly entertainment)

Being a mirthful mundivagant of sorts, I decided it was high time to don my gallant gumboots, garish gunnysack, and goose-down garb to take a gander at some far-flung places in need of my presence.

While some souls leave their hearts in San Francisco, I left another part of my anatomy somewhere else. If truth be told, I left my toes in Tuktoyaktuk, (along with a memorable meal of minute rice, mushy peas and milk pudding).

Why Tuktoyaktuk? Well why not! Any town with a tongue-twisting title like Tuktoyaktuk deserves to be visited … even by a six-water-grog, sky-boshing Scot like me. The fact that it’s situated in a godforsaken place, (actually it's a charming little northern outpost nestled conveniently in the dark deep-freeze and mooching muskeg of Canada), is a truly bonus.

Before departing on my jocular journey, I needed to know a little more about the “Land of Blizzards, Bugs & Beer”. Visiting the second-largest nation on earth is one thing but having a conversation with a Canuck is quite another.

One piece of advice … begin every conversation with “So, how’s the weather …over there …up there, or …down there anyway? Then be prepared for a scintillating pity pot story that captures the essence of Canada -- where it’s blinking cold and wet outside, it's much too muggy or miserable to play outdoors, or it's downright dangerous to stick a toe out the door with all the blasted bugs or bears camping on the front porch.

Second piece of advice…ignore weather forecasts (they’re about as reliable as a crapshoot in this country). Just bring along a big bumbershoot (capable of handling two months of something called “heavy precipitation”). Be prepared to brandish a large can of bug-repellent at the least sign of winged pesky pests (that appear during a one-month season called “summer”). And whatever you do, don’t forget to buy a six-pack of premium beer to wash down all the midges, mosquitoes, black flies or horse flies (as well as warm the cockles of your heart so you can cope with the other 11 months of brisk temperatures, blustery breezes and blinding blizzards).

Third piece of advice, use your imagination and figure out what you might want to find in a large-print, picture book called “A Manual on Moose, Mosquitoes & Mukluks”. Hint: You might want to explore the following: (1) why Santa Claus moved with his far-fetched family to the North Pole to set up a toy shop; (2) why some smelly soul called “Sasquatch” likes to hang out in provincial parks; and (3) why Snow White decided not to invest in cottage country because a carnivorous creature called “Little Red Riding Hood” got there first and devoured three French-speaking hens (who knows why), two calling birds (who probably wouldn’t shut up) and a big bad wolf (who was on sale at the butcher shop for $8.95 plus 7% GST).

Fare thee well Oh Canada. And, as a token of my deepest affection for your weed-whacking wilderness, wretched weather, and weird ways…may you enjoy my tingling toes, tidily pum. Because after walking in someone else’s moccasins and mukluks for a month or two, I now know why the deer and the antelope, not to mention the beaver and bear, plus the ‘Abominable Person of Snow’ all call this problematical place “home”.


In case you're looking for more moving mysteries about the Canadian Arctic, do drop by and take a peek at Tuktoyaktuk http://www.tuk.ca/


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