Canadian Chums and Bulls in Brum

Trip Start May 25, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Thursday, September 1, 2005

The truly lovely thing about travelling, and the even better thing about living overseas, are the contacts you make.

The random people who become friends.

The type of friends who you keep in touch with, and who invoke memories of landscapes left behind.

The type of friends who you invite to come and stay for a while, and truely hope that they do.

I first met Reg in Melissa's, a bar in Banff in the depths of the Canadian Rockies. It was November 2002, it had begun to snow, and it was my one night off in the past three weeks. Working three jobs was starting to get to me, but it was what I had to do to survive and live in such a glorious place, with fantastic people.

My average day was as follows:

7am - 5pm in the deli of 'Safeway', serving meats and cheese, making sandwiches for the skiers, cooking chicken for the locals, and generally being the most helpful person in the only supermarket in town. (It wasn't through choice that I achieved a 100% customer satisfaction rating, but it certainly helped me get more shifts)

5:30pm - 12:00am selling tickets in the box office of the only cinema in town. It wasn't coincidence that popcorn made up the contents of my usual evening meal, or that I got to know every person who lived in town, and their favourite type of film. 'No, I think you would prefer the Greek wedding one Mrs. Clifton. 'Death' is a bit less romantic!'

12:00am - 3:00am stopping the fights and selling sandwiches in the only 'Subway' sandwich bar in town. It wasn't coincidence that we were the busiest 'Subway' in North America, or that were located next to one of two nightclubs in town, and the only place open to get food after 10pm.

So trying to get the same shifts off, and hence a night off, or let alone a day to spend doing normal things was quite a feat. So when those times came around it meant only one thing. Time to go out with my housemates (all eight of them) and have a beer.

I had not been to Melissa's before, so trudging through the deep snow and waiting for 20 minutes in line was all part of the adventure. Tequila started the ball rolling, and before long the darts games was in full session. Reg just happened to be on the other team, and also happened to have a skateboard, and also happened to originally be from Halifax, Canada, a town I had worked in for three months.

And so we became friends. Infact, working in the three most visited shops in town, it was pretty easy to become friends with most folks in Banff. Anyone who spent over a couple of months in town was automatically classed as a 'local', so we had to stick together.

So it was a bit strange to meet Reg in Birmingham three years later. A place I wasn't supposed to be, and a place I had grown up to know like the back of my hand. I don't know who was more surprised I was there. Reg's email had read:

'Hey Claire. I know you are in Africa, but I am going to be in Birmingham, UK. Isn't that where you grew up? Shame you won't be around to show me around. Anyway, just thought I would let you know.'

I replied,

"Hi Reg. I am in Penkridge, a few miles north of Birmingham. I'll explain why later. Want to meet up? I'll be here for a while, so if you make it to Brum, just call and I'll show you around. See you soon! Claire"

It was so exciting, waiting for him and Shaun, another Banff local, to meet me at the Iron Man in downtown Birmingham.

And so we met. He looked just like I remembered. It was just like old times.

So as we wandered to the Bull Ring Centre, the latest flagship shopping mall, and along the renovated canal, laughing and joking, I was suddenly transported back to a time and place gone by.

How is it that we can remember so many things from our history so clearly?

How can we remember how happy we were in a time and place, and live with the knowledge that we chose to end that by moving on, always eager to see the next place, have the next great adventure?

How can we justify living life in such an extreme way as to never know who the next friend will be, or when you will next be in the company of a friend left behind?

How can our brains and souls process that continual feeling of excitement of the new, and the deep sadness of the passing of the old and familiar, the comfortable?

But yet, that was exactly what was happening now. A brief re-emergence of our past lives entwined, yet in another time and dimension. Both of us travelling, and aware that it may be another forever until we sit down and share our time again.

Is that why travellers tend to be happy people, aware that they need to enjoy the happy times? Aware that it is all going to end again, so say what you mean now while you have the chance, and then be gone?

I don't know. It's all too much to think about sometimes. I just know it was great to spend time with the boys. It was great to know they were exploring and taking time to see the world, my part of the world. And until next time, the e-mail will have to suffice.

Good luck lads, wherever you may be. Let me know next time you are in my hemisphere (southern next time), it's my round!

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