Friday, August 2, 2019

Fishing with Tom II: Miracle of the loafers and fishes

The cops waved us over to the side of the road, walked to the back of our station wagon, opened the tailgate, loaded in I believe two cases of beer, and sent us on our way.

You read that correctly.

The policemen gave us back beer that they had confiscated less than an hour earlier and let us go.

Amazing but true.

I was 16. I remember because just a few months earlier, I went from being a skinny kid with no life to being useful! I had a driver’s licence. Once I could drive, I could be — although they hadn’t invented the term yet — the 
 FISHIES' FAVOURITE NIGHTMARE:
Me, Ed, Pat, Tom Sr., Tom Jr. or Alex going fishin' 
designated driver for my older brother Tom and his buddies.

I’ve always really looked up to Tom, who's about 11 years older than me, and I wanted to hang out with him and his pals Moe, Joe, Brian, Don, Tom, Gerard and the others. They owned cars and played guitars.  

They travelled and went hunting and had girlfriends. And they always seemed to be laughing. And singing.

They also fished.

So — and remember this was a long time ago —  with me behind the wheel of whatever car they were using, Tom and his gang could sit in the back and dri… I mean, prepare to fish.

 I got to go on all sorts of adventures I wouldn’t have otherwise been part of.

Trips that were fun and educational, too.

There was, for instance, one late May fishing trip to a fishing camp near a little crossroads called Gogama, about 100 clicks north of our hometown of Sudbury.

That trip, I learned how to tie a boat to a car roof rack in such a way that when you cornered just so, the boat would gently slide off the racks and down over the passenger side doors but not so far as to hit the ground.  

I also learned that sometimes in Gogama, in late May, it snows, and by the time you get to the fishing spot, it’s too cold to do anything but turn around and go home again.  

But that wasn’t the night the cops gave us our beer back.

The beer-back night, we were in my father’s 1972 Ford station wagon and headed to the Whitefish River about 50 miles west of Sudbury to do some smelt “fishing.”  

The reason for the quotes marks is twofold: First, going after tiny river-swimming creatures called smelt shouldn’t count as fishing because all you do is stand on the shore and dip a long-handled net into the water and pull it out again, full of little fishies. The only skill a person fishing for smelt needs is the ability to not fall into the water.  

The other reason for the quote marks?

When we Carters went fishing, it didn’t suck to be a fish.

In other words, somewhere, at this very moment, in a Northern Ontario lake, a couple of 45-year-old pikes are reminiscing about how frightened they and their pike buddies didn’t get when they heard through the fish grapevine that a Carter was going fishing.

But smelts? They had reason to fret.

Smelt fishing in those days, should have been called standing on the shore drinking.  The fun was in hanging around a fire and, as my brother Pat used to say, "trading lies." Dipping the net in the river once in a while was a distraction. Smelt was the only kind of fishing I (or any other Carter) was any good at.  And that’s what we were headed to the Whitefish River to do.

There I was in the driver’s seat while Tom and his pals were aft, drink…I mean warming up.

Just before we got to the river, a cop flags me down. I pull over, roll down my window and he asks where we’re going. I tell him, “smelt fishing.”

“Do you have any beer in the car?” He didn’t have to ask.

We opened the tail gate, the policeman removed two two-fours and told us to have a good time.

We drove five more minutes to the river.  I don’t recall whether anybody took time out from their busy evening to dip a net into the water; we pretty much got to the river and turned around to go home.

I think it was the first time in history that anybody ever got skunked smelt fishing.

A few miles later, the police — God bless them — flagged us down all over again and, believe it or not, gave the boys back their beer.

The fact that nothing bad happened verged on the miraculous.

Fishing with Tom is always one surprise after another. Unless you’re a fish.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fishing With Tom

My brother Eddie glanced over from the passenger seat.

"You think I'm going to buy a stinking licence so I can fish for, what? 15 minutes once a year? Hah."

FISHING WITH ED: Everything we learned about the
sport, we learned from Tom.
He and I were two hours south of the cabin where we were meeting our two older brothers, Alex and Tom, for the fourth--and as it turns out final--"Carter Brothers' Annual Fishing Getaway."*

It was a summer Friday afternoon. Almost 20 years ago. In the context of the time, Eddie's comment was neither controversial nor surprising. Fact one: It was a new thing. For most of our lives up to that point, Ontario residents didn't need fishing licences. It just seemed a weird thing to have to think about.

Fact two: Ed's a realist. He knew, from a lifetime of fishing with Tom, the likelihood of engaging in any activity resembling fishing (much less catching an actual fish) was less than zero.

Me, I had my licence, but it might have been expired. I was pretty certain Alex's was legal and up to date. Turns out he thought so too. (This is an important detail to remember for later in the story when John Law shows up.)

Tom was carrying a licence, but it belonged to his son Hugh. Tom was not trying to trick anyone. Hugh at the time lived in Toronto and had renewed his licence but it had been mailed to his parents' home back in Elliot Lake. Tom was going to give me the licence to deliver to Hugh. I'm thinking Tom didn't have a licence of his own because he knew he wouldn't be fishing.

Ed, Tom, Alex and I arrived at the cabin just past suppertime Friday. Too late to fish.

CRIME SCENE: An artist's rendering (I did the drawing.)
So we had a few beer around the campfire and bragged about our nephews and nieces.

Next morning, I was out in the canoe, sort of fishing.

I was most likely not wearing a life jacket. And assuming I wouldn't need it because never in my life had I been asked to produce a fishing licence, I had left mine in my jean jacket pocket, back at camp.

I saw a small motorboat headed my way and knew immediately: Conservation officers.

They greeted me politely and asked where I was from and if I had a fishing permit. I said I did but it was back at camp. They said we'd go have a look see.

"Meet you back at your dock" they said.

For some reason, they didn't head directly to our camp, but headed across the river. I paddled as fast as I could and saw Ed fishing off the dock.

I yelled something like "Ed please go get my jacket so I can show the conservation officers my FISHING LICENCE!"

From then on, my memory's a little foggy. (The following play-by-play is a close approximation of what happened.)

Ed went up to the cabin to fetch my licence and Alex.

I pulled up to the dock; the COs arrived moments later, Ed and Alex came to the dock.

Tom, the wisest of the Carter brothers, stayed put 20 yards away, up beside the campfire.

I handed the COs my expired permit hoping for lenience, and Ed, when asked, handed over a piece of official-looking paper.

Meantime, Alex was happy that he was legit and proud that he had a licence but then the COs took him by surprise and told him it was expired. They told me mine was too and then said, "Tom what's your year of birth?"

That's not a mistake.

The conservation officer said "Tom, what's your year of birth?"

I didn't know why he was asking but figured Tom hadn't heard so I helpfully yelled "Tom! What year were you born?"

If Tom answered, I forget what he said.

But then it occured to me.

My nephew Hugh's name is actually Thomas Christopher Hugh and the CO was directing the question at Ed, who had handed him a fishing licence that said he was born in 1978, the year of Hugh's birth.

We all, save Tom, got busted.

It could have been a lot worse.

If the CO's wanted to, they could have confiscated our canoe and cars, but instead they leniently they just took our rods and reels and issued us a bunch of tickets for various infractions.

Our fishing weekend over, we packed up to head home.

Last thing I rememember was one of my brothers saying "Pete if you sell a story about this, I'm coming to your house and taking the money."

Something just occurred to me. Over the past however many years I've been alive, I learned a lot of really important life lessons while on fishing trips with Tom. I think I'm going to blog about a few more of them, soon.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Send a man out fishing with Tom, and you just never know. Stay tuned.

* No fish were harmed in the production of any of these expeditions.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bike Club

You might have noticed that when motorcyclists pass each other going in opposite directions, the riders often wave. A tiny flick of the left wrist. 
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD NERDS: Cool-running Pete,
biking to accordion school


You've also probably asked yourself, "Why do they do that? What's it mean?"

I am not allowed to tell you. The answer is a secret. 

However, just so you won't feel you've wasted your time reading this far*, I shall share the following bikers' wave lore...

When I was a younger man, I thought it was uncool to wave. If somebody went zooming past and raised his or her left hand, far be it from Joe Cool here to acknowledge it. 

I got older.

I realized how spiritually demoralizing it must be to wave and not get waved back at. It'd be like moving in for a high-five but the other person not reacting. So now I wave.

I also kinda feel really bad for all those riders over the years who gave me the wave but didn't get a response. I guess this is my public apology.  (I feel like a politician.) 

Another thing? 

We've been known to wave to other oncoming bikers even when there's eight lanes of traffic between us. Seriously. I found myself doing it on the Don Valley Parkway en route to work this week. I was in the shoulder lane heading north and I exchanged waves with a biker in the shoulder lane headed south.

VROOM WITH A VIEW: Friday 13th's Port Dover's lucky day. (I swiped this
London Free Press photo off Google.)
Which reminds me of my friend Malcolm Roberton. 

When Malcolm atttended our wedding 30-odd years ago, he had a new female acquaintance with him.I asked how they met. 

Days earlier, he said, he had been walking east past Toronto's Royal York Hotel when this woman exited Union Station across the street and their eyes met. 

For those who've never been to Toronto, Front Street separating Union Station from the Royal York is about as wide as the Champs Elysees. 

I said exactly that to Malcolm. He grinned and said, "I know, eh?"

Malcolm also once told me his favourite movies were the kind you'd enjoy even if you were blind or deaf. This blog would probably be more interesting if I wrote about Malcolm instead of adult strangers on toys waving at each other, but I digress. 

You have to know we don't wave or nod to any vehicles that aren't motorcycles. If you do drive a Vespa or an e-bike or a three-wheeled jobbie and if a motorcyclist waved at you, it was an honest mistake. The sun was probably in their eyes. Don't let it go to your head.  

STASH IN PLAIN SIGHT: What do they do?
Wiggle their curly do's at one another? 
I just thought of something else.

I could probably win a place in the Guiness Book of Records for most waves in a single day. 

Here's why. 

There's a town not far from Toronto called Port Dover and for some reason, every Friday 13th in riding season, thousands of  bikers roar into the town for a day of -- I'm not sure what because I've never been. 

Last July the cops estimated 140,000 bikes showed up in Dover! That's 280,000 separate wheels! I did the math!

A couple of years ago right around suppertime, I had reason to be riding south on highway six in the direction of  Port Dover. It was at the exact time the Dover visitors were starting to head home. 

It was like riding headfirst into a swarm of one-eyed firefly monsters with huge chrome handlebar moustaches.

They only had me to wave at.

Meantime my left hand was, like, "UP down. UP down. UP down...."  Probably a few hundred times.

My wrists must have thought I was riding a parade float. I know I felt like a dork.

Speaking of big chrome moustaches, when my daughter Ria and I were at Burning Man a few years back she asked a chap with a handlebar moustache if similarly whisker'd guys exchange some sort of secret acknowledgement when they pass on the sidwalk.

He said they do. Can you believe it? How silly.

(*Wasted valuable time reading Pete's Blog&Grille? Thats Unpossible! hahaahahahaaha)








Saturday, June 15, 2019

9 Master Chef Canada Secrets Revealed!!!

My cousin’s kid just won Master Chef Canada. Jennifer Crawford is Canada’s coolest and smartest
REFLECTING ON FAMILY: Jenn's so brilliant
you need shades.
cook. Here’s 9 things about this kitchen wizard you won’t find anywhere else.

1)      Jenn's mom is Joan. I know. Joan Crawford. As in Mommie Dearest. It’s a cliché everybody knows based on a book nobody’s read and when I Googled the book to ensure I got the title correct, I learned the writer, Christina Crawford, exaggerated a lot and Crawford the actor may have had issues but she was nowhere near the demon Christina made her out to be in fact her other kids had wonderful loving stories to tell about their mom. But that’s got precious little to do with the subject at hand, I just thought it was interesting.

2)    Speaking of names, Jennifer calls me a “newfounduncle,” because even though Jenn's lived in Toronto 10 or so years, we connected only eight months ago. Jenn was raised in a teensie place called Kingston, Nova Scotia. I now know three people from Kingston. One is Master Chef Jennifer, who has at least two university degrees and can bench press more than my weight; then there’s Jenn's big brother Lucas, a full university professor, and finally, my musician friend Dr. Michael Thibodeau, who has a Ph freaking D in piano, from the University of Toronto. All that brainpower from one tiny outta-the-way place! "So," I asked Michael: “What’s in the water?” Michael’s response? “Keith’s.”

ONLY THE POM POMS ARE MISSING: Jenn's cheering squad
(photo by Brilynn Ferguson)
3)   He meant Keith’s the beer. And for some reason, I’m reminded of the only Karl Marx quote I know: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Here’s why: A few days before the Master Chef finale, which was last Monday, Jenn texted me from Nova Scotia. Jenn was coming back to T.O. for the showing of the final episode and the plan? Host a few dozen closest friends and family at a viewing party. Ingredient number-one: a Toronto bar that would turn its TV screens over to Master Chef. Problem number-one? The Raptors. All the places Jenn phoned said their screens would be all basketball, all evening.  Nobody’d seen that coming. “Who,” Jenn must have wondered, “would be the one person in Toronto most capable of finding me a bar when I need it?”

4)    Tu-duh! Newfounduncle Pete! Jenn knew if anybody was up to that job, it was me. So, in the company of Newfoundaunt Helena, I bravely ventured out that very evening, visiting bar after bar until eventually stumbling upon the congenial and welcoming Elvyra Beniusyte behind the bar at a place called Bar Lokys, just a few blocks from our house. Elvyra, who immigrated from Vilnius just three months(!) ago loved the idea and helped make the viewing party happen. (P.S. If I were looking to hire a multi-lingual university grad with extraordinary interpersonal communication skills and expertise in data analysis, I’d hire Elvyra in an instant. Just sayin’. Like I said, each according to his ability.)

5)     Jenn’s  cooking was what won the prize but I’m thinking the judges were clinched by that all-encompassing smile.
RAPTOR RIVAL  Master barkeep Elvyra, Master Chef Jenn, and
 Ed, on left (where you'll always find him.)

6)     That said, play poker with Canada’s newest Master Chef at your peril. Jenn Crawford might well have the most expressive face you’ve ever laid eyes on but get this: Filming ended a few months before the party at Bar Lokys. During that time, I’d been in touch with Jenn a lot. But ... crickets. Even in Bar Lokys, surrounded by fans, as the final moments neared and it was down to Jenn and one Andre Bahgwandat. Faces toward the TV, most of us were holding our breath as top chef Michael Bonacini said “Canada’s new master chef is…..” and the camera zoomed in to Jenn’s and Andres’s faces.  When Bonacini said “Jennifer” the champ Monday looked as surprised as the rest of us.  (If I tried to keep a secret like that the top of my head would blow off.)
THE ONLY NAILS LEFT UNBITTEN
(photo by Brilynn Ferguson)

7)     In addition to charm one of the appetizers that helped Jenn clinch it was a delicacy with the too-gross-by-half name “Ants On A Log.”  Ants. On. A. Log. Yummy! The main ingredient: Blue Cheese! Usually when I think of blue cheese, what comes to mind is when the hero in Woody Allen’s sci-fi spoof Sleeper used its pungency to subdue a bad guy. But after Master Chef? A spoonful of Ants on A Log seems like a great idea.

8)     Not that this should come as a surprise to anybody but after meeting my brother Ed the first time,  Jenn described him as “so charismatic.” You talk like that about Ed and you're my new best friend.

9)    Which reminds me. When Ed did his stand-up routine at 2nd City earlier this year, the host, Evan Carter, introduced him with “He’s the uncle all the nieces and nephews think is funniest.” Turns out my newfound niece Jenn is just as sweet and as astonishing as any of my oldfound nieces, and that, friends, is saying something.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Why having fun at the dentist is as easy as pulling teeth.

INSERT: Spittin'-image pun here
Had my teeth cleaned yesterday at my local, Pacific Dental.

I always look forward to those visits.

Everybody at Pacific Dental is talkative and interesting; they have very comfortable dental chairs and piped-in classical music.

The only downside is, at the dentist's -- for long moments at a time -- I have to do something I find quite difficult and that's not talk.

But otherwise? Those visits are little recesses from life.

I once asked Pacific's resident dentist, Doctor David Sacoransky -- when he thought a task was difficult -- if he described it as "like pulling teeth".

"No," he said. "I say something is like pulling teeth when it's easy."

Wouldn't you want a dentist who talks like that?

And yesterday ... yesterday ... fact is, I'd been looking forward to yesterday's visit since early March.

Because in early March, my wife Helena and I were lucky enough to tour -- I know  you're going to be jealous -- the Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland, and ever since, I'd been itching to tell everybody at Pacific Dental.

A MOLAR SYMPHONY
None of them had heard about the museum, so they were a great audience; I felt like one of those brave men or women long ago who'd travel to, say, Borneo, and then come home and wow the local Rotary Club with tales of their adventures.

One of the highlights of the dental museum -- but you already probably guessed this -- was the salon given over to saliva.

Did you know that every day, we each produce about six litres or maybe it's gallons of  the stuff?

At one point yesterday, the following exchange took place.

Me: "There's a part of one gallery in the museum devoted to George Washington's false teeth."

Dr. David: "They were wooden."

Me: "Nope! They were not! That was part of the mystique. Everybody thinks George Washington had wooden teeth but it's a myth."

Then I mentioned Doc Holliday, the famous deadly gunfighter who was supposedly in scores of gunfights in the old west, and who was also a dentist and whose picture hangs in Baltimore.

Dr. David was up on Holliday and had this to say:"Yeah he was also the sheriff and doctor I think. In Arizona in a town near Tuscon."

From the comfort of Dr. David's chair, I Googled Doc Holliday and learned that he never actually shot that many people; in fact maybe just two, tops.

Dr. David again: "So that's a myth, too?"

Pacific Dental: Educational and fun besides.

One time I was there talking with Paula the charming hygienist about how when we're kids we all practise saying our names backwards and we were laughing and in walks Dr. David. He asked what we were on about, I told him, and he was like, "You mean like yksnarocaS?"

Just like that as if he'd been rehearsing all afternoon, and names like his are no walk in the park frontwards or backwards.

They probably think I'm odd.

But yesterday, it occured to me why I enjoy the dentist so much.

INSERT: Me and my big mouth pun here.
Go back up to the first paragraph: Comfortable chair. Piped-in classical music. Cordial, fascinating staff.

Then there's this..

I was having my teeth cleaned. Not fixed; not removed or filled.

Cleaned. And polished. (Or, as I said to Paula, "paula-ished.")

Never, in any society in any period of time, anywhere on the planet, did regular schmoes like me actually have the time, resources or inclination to have their teeth cleaned.

Throughout all of history until, like, just recently, guys my age were lucky to have teeth. In fact, they were lucky if they got to be my age.

But me?

I was born in the most luxurious, convenient and healthy time EVER. As I said to my neighbour Bill who I ran into on my way home today, "If I wanted a kiwi fruit right now, I could get one."

Not sure why I wander around in this constant state of dumbass wide-eyed amazement but there you are.

Finally, speaking of saliva, sometimes, when I start listing all the reasons I'm lucky to be alive here and now, --"Crime rates are down! We can buy groceries in the middle of the night! None of  my generation got keelhauled off to war! World poverty is going down! (Look it up!!) We can Google historic data from the dentist chair!"--I get so irritating it's enough to make me gag.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Holy Week Batman!

YOURS, MINE AND HOURS AND HOURS: Good Friday meant serving serious time
at St. Clement's, up the street from our house .
All year long, in my various capacities as husband, father, editor and nice guy, I write a lot of emails.

And typically, I sign off with versions of "Have a fun Thursday" or "Enjoy your afternoon" or  maybe "Hope you have an interesting evening."

I sometimes go with "Have a good Friday," but I immediately append that with "not in the Jesus sense of Good Friday, but you know..."

And now here we are: It's almost Good Friday Eve. End of Lent. End of Holy Week. And almost every one of us--Catholics, protestants, everybody!--gets the day off. It's great!

God knows why.

Weird thing is--and I'm sure I'm not alone in this--when I was a little Catholic kid, I loathed Good Friday.

It was the most ironically named worst day of the year.

Good Friday in the Carter household was all about church and suffering.

Sure there was no school, but in the very early years of my schooling, we didn't get "Spring Break" in March, we got "Easter Week" and Good Friday was a signal that the holiday week was coming to a close.

Plus, in the house I grew up, there was nothing remotely positive about this religious holiday.

Some Good Fridays, my mom  made us head up the hill to St. Clement's church twice in a 24-hour period. And the Lenten services were long and torturous and dark with no music to break up the tedium.

All the statues in the church were covered in purple and we always felt sad if not just a bit guilty as if we were just a bit personally responsible about what happened to Jesus.
THEY LOST ME AT SOCIAL NETWORKING: I Googled "What to
Give Up For Lent"

To make matters worse, many of us had given up candy for Lent (the 38 days preceding Good Friday) and still had to wait a full two more days for Easter chocolate!

(While I'm on that topic, I could never wrap my head around that chunk of theology. We were encouraged to make sacrifices, like giving up candy for Lent, but underlying it all was this weird  motive. Why were we giving up candy? We were doing it to get to heaven! If we were truly unselfish, wouldn't we be trying to not get to heaven? Of course as I got older I became increasingly at one with Mark Twain, who figured hell would be where the interesting fun and people related to me would be. Is there any smoking or drinking or good old fashioned goofing off or, like, flirting going on in heaven? I digress.)

(Also, my mom was actually a pushover when it came to fasting for Lent and I don't think I ever went a full 40 days without candy, but probably some Catholic kids did. And I digress again.)

Still, Good Friday, when I was a kid, was anything but good.

The stores were closed.

It almost alway rained.

But now?

Most of us get the day off, with pay.

You don't have to shop ahead of time or decorate or choose presents or clean up the house because nobody hosts, like, Good Friday parties.

In fact there's really no reason to get out of bed before noon, and even then you might as well just stay put.

Stores are closed, so you can't make your weekly $175 deposit at Home Hardware.

And did I mention we almost all of us get the day off with pay?

The more I think of it, the more I think they should change the name to Great Friday.

Good Friday is the Roman Catholic Church's no-strings-attached gift to Western Civilization

On second thought, instead of saying "Have a Good Friday," I'm going with, "You're welcome."

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Finally! "The Full Comaneci!"

CLEVELAND ROCKS: But at least one
joint was a real eye-roller.
This short blog has a surprise ending.

I already know that because I told my friend Richard the story you’re about (I hope) to read, and when I got to the end, he literally took a half a step backwards and said, “Man you gotta, like, tell the world about that.”

Here goes.

A few weeks ago, my cell rang in the middle of the afternoon and the caller i.d. showed a long number with “Hong Kong” written under it. Ignoring every instinct in my body to answer the thing, I didn't pick it up.

Same thing happened 24 hours later.

Then a third call, a day later. 

The call on day four came with a twist. Hong Kong left a message. I punched in my password. A female voice in perfect but accented English: “Hi my name is Carol I’m calling from Agoda....”

She went on with the message and wound up with, “Please note it could take up to 30 business days to transfer the amount. Thank you.”

I hung up. In disbelief.

Here’s why. 

A month earlier, my wife Helena and I were going to spend a few days in Cleveland so to find accommodation, I Googled something like “places to stay near the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.”

It came up with an establishment that sounded economical but decent and I booked and used my credit card to pay for two nights.

We drove to Cleveland and drove around until we found the place.

Glad to be done driving, we checked in.

Well.

I’ve stayed in some skuzzy joints, but this place outskuzzed them all. It bordered on scary, from the lobby in. I’ll just go into detail about one single lowlight: There was a huge patch of icky wet carpet that we had to walk across to get to the bathroom. From there, it was all downhill.

One night was enough.

Next morning, I courageously told the desk clerk we were leaving and please could we have our second night’s payment refunded?  He looked at his computer and said something like, “You booked through the agency; you have to ask them.”

HARBOUR INN: Was close to but couldn't
compete with our skanky hotel
I didn’t know of any agency. He told me it was called Agoda.

More than a week later, we were back home and I Googled Agoda. It was an online booking service alright, but there was no phone number or street address.

It had a menu to register questions and concerns but in order to do so, you had to fill in things like your order confirmation number and the last four digits of the credit card you used and I had neither handy. 

There was one little space to leave comments so I just fired off the same story you just read including the detail about the smooshy rug and us bailing on the second night but not being able to contact anybody and please could I get my money back. I left my phone number.

Turns out, that’s what the mysterious phone calls were about.

My curt little memo found its way across the globe and somehow somebody somewhere in Asia read it then tried to get hold of me not once, not twice but four times, finally leaving a message telling me I would get the requested refund; an amount of money  which I had—as you might expect—long written off.  

So.

Until proven otherwise, I’m awarding that company called Agoda what I call-- a bit in honour of the famous Romanian gymnast who won a gold in '76 but mostly because I like the way it sounds --“The Full Comaneci!:” 10 outta 10!

Agoda. You read it first here folks. Agoda
THIS BE NADIA, 43 YEARS IN:
(In case you were wondering.)

And that’s what Richard thought I should tell the world about. 

You’d like Richard. 

Smart guy, he is.

And here's a weird thing I just remembered. Many years ago, he diagnosed me as a classic pronoiac.

Pronoia, in case you don’t know, is the opposite of paranoia.

Heres Wikipedia on pronoia: "Where a person suffering from paranoia feels that persons or entities are conspiring against them, a person experiencing pronoia feels that the world around them conspires to do them good.

"In 1993 the writer and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow defined pronoia as "the suspicion the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf."

With stuff like Agoda happening to me on a regular basis, how can I be anything but?