Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Barry Finlay Pens I Guess We Missed the Boat - A Travel Memoir with Facts, Fun and Friendship...

We were in awe of the cruise ship when we arrived at the dock the next day. It was something like seeing a mountain superimposed on a dark blue sky for the first time. It was quite a shock seeing the ships glistening in the port with their stark white hulls in contrast with the blue water. Twelve storeys tall and two and a half football fields long, the power required to actually get these things to move is unimaginable. Stepping aboard is like arriving in another world, opulence doesn't begin to describe this colossus of the seas. It's like stepping into a small city owned by an oil sheik. And a city it is, with every size, shape, nationality, and everything anyone could ever want within easy walking distance. It's our little piece of the world for the next few days, along with about three thousand of our closest friends.
There was little time to explore as the first order of business was the lifeboat drill. This was all news to us...but...looking back we are happy that we had to go through that slightly annoying exercise...
After the lifeboat drill, we got to explore the movable castle where we would be staying for the next three days. The staterooms are small but functional. With so many things to do, we weren't going to be spending much time in them anyway. The toilets, which Jim affectionately named "Slurpee," have tremendous suction, and you feel that you need to stand back when you flush them for fear of being sucked in and jettisoned into the ocean.  As a male, I'm not sure it would be wise to remain sitting on the toilet when you flush as you might be neutered before you realized what was happening...

I Guess We Missed the Boat:
A Travel Memoir
By Barry Finlay

I kinda wished I knew this family so I could travel with them! I've traveled quite a bit, but not nearly as much as I would have liked, especially after reading this memoir of what's been happening when you travel with Barry Finlay. Now I will have to say that I do have to immediately correct the image presented by Finlay as he described one of the first things I did on one of the cruises I've enjoyed. Here's the female version of that first very personal experience...
Stripping off the sanitary paper, I hurried to get seated--I had to go! Traveling with my two sisters, I knew I'd better hit the head as quickly as I could, so I was gazing around liking our tiny toilet, having concluded my business in being there. Just as I started to rise, a big Slurp roared immediately below--I thought it was going to pull me on through into the sea! OMG! How bad do you think it is when one of the very first things you talk about is the commode! You see, the toilets are automatic and so if you're a man, you just do not get the full effect of that slurrrrrpiiiiiiieeeeee! Especially when it's your first time! Of course I warned my sisters...LOL But my first real slurp, I shall never forget!
OK, I'm laughing as I remember, but, you know, it was the first thing I looked for when I came to the chapters on cruises! It's a moment you want to see if others experienced as you did. Obviously, the gender of the occupant does make a difference...LOL 

Sooo, the first thing you notice if that the book is divided into different types of travel--that is; the travel component--by vehicle, by boat, by plane... I think what happens by vehicle are much more unique to the traveler, but still, it was interesting to see the arrangements of a group of 8, all related in some way... For the first thing, they have meetings! Well, I guess I've been part of the planning, but most of the early planning for me was by somebody else, be it either for business or pleasure. In fact, since planning was always a part of my professional position, I preferred it that way! Anyway, I hope you'll forgive that there is so much covered in this type of book, that I tend to share what made an impression on me...LOL

I have had the opportunity to travel with and without the group and there have been some events in my travels that seemed like minor tragedies when they happened, but time has managed to turn them into something better. I have probably forgotten most of what I once knew about our travels. I'm just happy that I'm not capable of forgetting what I didn't know. Not only do we work hard to be able to do the things we want to do when we're old enough to do them but we also work long and hard to earn the right to forget things.
Young people often comment on how lucky we are to be able to travel. Yeah, well, the unsympathetic side of me says, "Work for forty years, save a bit of money, and you will be lucky enough to travel, too!"
First of all, you won't enjoy it half as much as we who have indeed worked over 40 years... It's funny, I think, that I have more of a sense of humor about being older than I ever did when I was young. It really doesn't bother many of us that age has started to allow us to forget. I think we remember what we want to, don't you? And so much of the early part of the book is a group sharing of memories. Finlay's group lives in Canada, so many of their travels brings them into the U.S. I think that is a natural inclination--to travel where you haven't been. Two of my favorite visits in Canada included seeing the wonderful "Phantom of the Opera..." at the Pantages Theatre... Oh dear, see what happens when we meet fellow travelers--we want to tell our own stories!

Still in Canada, a trip right at the border to Vermont is a popular place for a winter ski vacation, featuring a trip to Jay Peak restaurant for "Poutine." This is supposedly the original, according to Wikipedia, but there are lots of different versions! 

...offers the heart attack-inducing combination of French-friend potato chips, cheese curds, and gravy...a favorite dish among French Canadians. You know those little things that dam up your arteries? They love to see poutine coming. You haven't lived, and possibly died, if you haven't eaten poutine!

Of course there is always the accidental sighting--you know, of celebrities...Mine was Ed Asner, but this group got Billy Ray Cyrus... Of course, I could cheat and talk about my trip to Branson...
Evelyn and I met Billy Ray Cyrus at the Nashville International Airport...He sang "Achy Breaky Heart," one of those songs that no one admits to liking but everyone sings along and dances to. As he passed through security ahead of us, we confirmed with the woman checking us in that it was indeed Billy Ray...She said she couldn't understand what the fuss was about because she sees these people all the time. We did get a chance to talk to him briefly, and he is, without a doubt, one of the nicest celebrities that you could ever want to meet.

Dan George, Chief of the Burrard
Indian band in British Columbia...
Another sighting, one I would like to have had, was of Chief (and actor) Dan George... Most at our age have seen him often in movies, but Finlay said that he saw him so often, he "began to think what I was seeing was some sort of spirit world emissary appearing to send me and my fellow passengers safely on our way..." Wouldn't that be cool, since he died in 1981, it just might be true! ,
There is quite a bit about flying since 9/11 but I'll just mention that Ron the Cowboy faced the worst of that...so you can see if you can top his story... I really wondered whether when they started telling some of their travel stories whether they had been "added to" in order to top their co-traveling partners...LOL...

And then there was Finlay's wife, Evelyn's interests in castles, this one in Portugal, which I would love to see...
...in the town of Silves, Portugar, where I really began to more full understand Evelyn's love of castles. This was the beginning of what has come to be known as ABC travel. Another Bloody Castle. Silves has a castle built in 1200 AD, and Evelyn was in her element, exploring every nook and cranny...She explains her love of castles...There's just something romantic and mysterious about them... 

While this ritual is practiced individually and no one waits for the other to have located their object of desire, it's almost a team sport as the objects appear on the table at virtually the same time. In my mind's eye, I can see the symphony playing in the background. With the imagined strains of Swan Lake and the soft lighting from the giant chandeliers overhead providing the ambiance, it is like watching a synchronized swimming event. Arms looping in synchronization toward pocket or purse. Fingers searching. Discovery. Containers placed on the table at precisely the same time....

Starting with a cruise and ending here seems a good idea, because there are just too many places to share about. But I really howled when they began to talk about the ritual at dinner. Dinner on a ship may be as formal as you wish, especially if you're heading on to whatever entertainment might be available that night. I myself would not be eligible to participate in this ritual that this small group had created. But it started with one individual picking up a purse, for instance, and starting to search through for an item--normally a small box.

Now I have to say that if the author's imagination roams as widely as found on page 129 then you can decide whether you want to travel with this individual! I'm sitting here wondering whether his travel companions ever had this described to them--before it became part of this book--and whether they've traveled together since then! Actually, traveling with somebody is always more fun in my experience. And if you can't travel, finding a travel memoir by somebody with a great imagination and sense of humor might just be the best way for you to see some of the world... or at least the next best thing to actually being there! Check it out...  or if you're not quite sure, here's one more quote:

The first animal we saw as we passed through the gates of the Serengeti was the incredible giraffe...as they come close to the truck to afford the tourists a good look, they seem to be saying, "Look at me! I'm sexy and I know it."


Barry Finlay had an extensive career in financial management before retiring in 2004, after thirty two years with the Canadian federal government. He is a Chartered Accountant (CA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA) who dabbles in the arts as he is also an award winning decorative wood carver. Since retiring, he has divided his time between writing, working as a consultant on financial policy matters, travel, playing golf, climbing mountains, philanthropy and enjoying his three grandchildren. 

In 2009, Barry got off the couch and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with his son, Chris. They carried a Canadian flag to the peak with the names of over 200 supporters who donated to the Finlays' cause of providing clean water and educational opportunities to a preschool and primary school. The experience of climbing Africa's highest mountain at age 60 with one of his sons, and discovering the satisfaction of reaching a goal and giving others the opportunity to achieve theirs, was a book waiting to be written. Kilimanjaro and Beyond has won numerous awards and Barry is featured in the Authors Show book, "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading." 

His new book, I Guess We Missed The Boat just received the 2013/14 Reader Views Literary Award in the Travel category.

Barry is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for philanthropy.

A portion of the proceeds from the books will go towards helping young women and youth in Africa start small businesses.

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