The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Share Your World May 29, 2017

Toward the end of my career with Bell Canada, I had racked up considerable vacation privileges. Five weeks vacation, all of the statutory holidays, two “SDO’s” (scheduled days off) in each ten-week period, PLUS a couple of freebies at Christmas. I did the math and it added up to nearly ten weeks off! Man, did we have it good.

I wasn’t first in seniority, but close enough to be able to get the weeks I wanted. Which were during each of the season changes – the two equinoxes and solstices. As for the SDO’s, I booked those days on Mondays. My reasoning was that most people picked Fridays, so those days were relatively low-key. Mondays, on the other hand were considerably more frenetic.

As for how I spent my vacation? Nothing special. Gardening, mostly. You see, travelling to see the world holds no particular appeal for me.


That’s not true, really. I traveled across Canada in my late teens and I spent a week in England in the late 80’s. Between the two was a trip to the Canary Islands. I enjoyed myself while I was travelling and came home much enriched for the experience. (Except for the broken nose. That I could have done without.)

The mid-70’s trek was a student exchange program called “Young Voyageurs” designed for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see Canada. Twenty students from Waterloo Region traveled to visit twenty more in West Vancouver. Then our group hosted kids from Lac La Biche, Alberta. Everyone stopped in Ottawa at one point or another since this was a federally funded program. We used just about every mode of public transport out there: planes, trains, buses, boats.  And a gondola ride up Grouse Mountain. (Can you imagine the cost? Can you imagine a similar program today? No, neither can I.)

More than a few times along the way, the natural settings brought me to tears. Mount Robson, the Capilano Gorge, the Pacific Ocean! We stopped at Butchart Gardens (mining factoid: a former quarry!) and at Cathedral Grove “a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.” The stand of towering, ancient trees is protected within MacMillan Provincial Park.

In the late 80’s I traveled to England with some friends. I almost bailed on the UK trip because of the Lockerbie bombing a few months earlier. My friends talked me down, I survived the flight, of course, and once on dry land, I did enjoy myself. Enormously. The pubs! I loved the pubs! I’d go back in an instant if someone perfected “beam me up” technology.

The beauty of the landscape moved me deeply. When visiting the ruins of moated castles, I felt a pull of recognition, something stronger than déjà vu. I felt that I was returning home.  Again, I was brought to tears by the natural beauty.

After our lunch at one of the local I-loved-the-pubs! pubs, we made our way to the famous Stonehenge site. My friend and I were chattering away as her husband drove. We crested a hill and – BOOM — instantly fell silent. In the distance was the famous circle of stones. I can remember, even now as I type, the visceral connection I felt – one that commanded silence, reverence. The day was gray and drizzling. Rather appropriate for the mood, I thought. Unfortunately, the spell was broken once we arrived at the site. Crowds, confusing car parks and line-ups… and the worst, I pouted, was the barricade at the monument itself. Touch only with your eyes, children. Trust me, I get it. As a custodian for a heritage trail here in Cobalt, I know about vandalism. But still. I had hoped I could touch the stones.

I am deeply grateful for having made these trips. Because of the UK trip, I found my passion for gardening. The cross-Canada trek brought me out of my shell and I made dozens of new friends.

As far as traveling goes, I suppose it’s the “getting there” that holds no appeal – the cost, the crowds, my anxiety about flying or driving. I won’t even mention the nightmare that is airport procedure. When I travel these days, it’s by car, and short two-or three days at the most.  Even then, I need a day or two days to recover from the change in diet, the strange bed, the anxiety of driving on the busy highways.

***   ***   ***

Inspired by Cee’s Share Your World

What is the most famous landmark or building you have ever seen?

Do you like long vacation or lots of mini-vacations?

What is your favorite National or State Park?

What is your fantasy vacation?

From my scrapbook of the trip. The Young Voyageurs was open to students 17 years old – there may have been 150 or more at KCI, but the three lucky candidates were from the same class.

A streetscape in Rye. Here’s where my fascination with gardening began. I was amazed to see that every last scrap of available ground was used for flowers.

Bodium Castle

Unfortunately, I did not keep notes with my photos so I am guessing here: I believe that this a house on a National Trust site, near Mere. But don’t quote me.


Categories: Blog Blog Blog, Gardening, Personal Growth


49 replies

  1. I love to sit and feel the history of a building or a road…..or whatever. I have the same problem with flying, driving, and crowds. I have seen some interesting US history but the crowds always seemed to put a damper on things. That’s when I let my imagination kick in and pretend I’m all alone. However, to not be able to to touch something such as Stonehenge would make my hands itch. At least it’s still there for all to see. I love how you shared your lessons from your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi April – I know exactly what you mean about “feeling” the history or age of a place. We stopped in Southampton harbour to visit a famous military vessel under the command of a famous admiral. (I’ve forgotten the names – my pitiful memory.) I could not board that boat. No way, no how. I had very strong feelings of anger. Weird, eh?

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Young Voyageurs!! I remember that program and was a happy participant in it. I didn’t make it to Vancouver Island until much later in life with 2 young sons in tow, but we went to Banff, the BC interior and did our exchange with students from Salmon Arm.
    The moment when I thought my chest was going to explode was when I saw the Rockies. It triggered a life-long desire to travel.
    Mountains still have the power to take my breath away.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would love to see a genuine English castle, and be close enough to smell the grounds, touch the stones, and breathe in the antiquity – but for a few things…
    The crowds, the expense, and the anxiety.

    I don’t travel well. Too many people bleeding their anxious vibes all over the place makes me wanna curl up in a little ball and howl…especially when I’m not on my home ground.

    I’ve never flown commercial, and I’ve yet to see an ocean. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I’ve got far too much sensitivity for my own good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sister! I might be projecting my own feelings here, but I detect a tiny bit of regret? Or are you at peace with your landlocked/both feet firmly planted on the ground status?

      I hadn’t considered the anxious vibes from other passengers. Of course that would only serve to amplify my own nervousness.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! Broken nose? Do tell!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was holidaying with a bunch of classmates on a trip to the Canary Islands. One evening we were on the balcony of the hotel suite enjoying the free sangria. One of the bunch wanted to smoke, but needed an ashtray. Since I was closest to the door, I offered to get it for her. Up I stood, whirled around and kaBOOM bounced off the plate-glass window of the patio door.

      You can read the entire saga of how my mom wanted me to get a nose job to fix it. She was more troubled by it than I was.


  5. Wow – I learned something today. I’ve been to Butchart Gardens but I didn’t know it was a former quarry. It makes sense, as I am trying to recall images from those visits. I travel a lot for work, mostly domestic (US) and I won’t miss it when I eventually retire.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would love to see a castle up close. I’ve never seen one other than pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Maggie, a beautiful description and lovely photos. I think there are a lot of us who no longer feel the allure of travel because of how miserable “they” have made it these days. Let’s see how tiny we can get those airplane seats while we’re at it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I sometimes reflect on who I’d be if I hadn’t travelled a little bit when I was younger– and getting there was much less stressful than it is today. I loved the castles and the pubs of England/Scotland, too. I wonder if kids today, connected with each other all the time via their smart phones, get the same sense of place that we did way back when?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was lucky that my folks took all of us (4 kids, small camper) on a 2 week trip across the USA every summer growing up. So we got to see a lot. I love to travel, car road trips are my favorite, but I like flying too….funny how we’re all different. Loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fabulous post, words and pictures. I love that you were so deeply influenced by English gardens. Me too, and I’ve never been!

    As a youth and well, a single adult, I traveled extensively. My parents were big on travel. Some grand trips, but mostly camping on the cheap in parks and whatnot. I was an only, which is why I think my children are less fortunate in the travel category.
    The Mister and I plan to take certain trips later, just the two of us. Sadly, we do not agree on all the places… I want to go to South Africa and he wants to see China. Do we go with the other to the place, or go two different places at the same time? We do not know, but first, places we both want to go 🙂 Much of Western Europe, certainly.
    Similar to you, I find the expense and time spent in transit daunting. Like, I’d love to see New Zealand, in theory. A friend of ours moved there, and when I found out how long her FLIGHTS were, I decided I did not want to see it after all! Mmhm. I’d be all about beaming to it, but alas…

    Anyway, fab post. I loved traveling through your travel thoughts 🙂


    • I fell head over heels in love with the Yorkshire Moors after seeing the 1972 Jane Eyre remake with gorgeous George C Scott. I obsessed about the place for months afterwards, and never really lost the desire for the English countryside.

      I can’t imagine you and the Mister taking separate vacations, but that might just be the best solution if you both want to complete your list.
      Thanks for the kind compliments. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dang, Maggie! That broken nose story…! Glass patio doors are dangerous. I banged off one, too, but just had to get stitches over my eye. My son looked at me in horror with all the blood. I cleaned it up and drove myself to the ER to be sutured. Such an independent little bitch am I….. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well, leading up to takeoff is a tad unnerving, and landing, even moreso. But oh my word, to see some desired places in this world…wow, what a miracle it is. Also, it didn’t hurt that each Aer Lingus plane is dedicated to a saint (for his/her care in safety), whose name has been painted on the nose part of the plane, which can be seen from a window seat, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My son says that the best advice I ever gave him was to spend the summer after college in Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fabulous insight in the the mind of Maggie. I adore the photo of you and your two friends. I too loathe “getting there” and am less inclined as I get older to put myself through the rigours required but I have a husband who loves adventure and from time to time I go with him – take one for the team. But mostly, like you, I prefer places easy to reach by car or train. On a recent jaunt to Montreal I met a couple from Minneapolis whose travel credo is they will go anywhere that flies direct from their airport.


    • 🙂 Hi Susanne – Yes, for me traveling abroad falls under the “been there, done that” category. “Rigours” is a good word to describe what’s required to get from A to Z. “Torture” also comes to mind, if I allow hyperbole into the equation.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds like you had wonderful opportunities and the wisdom (or will) to take advantage of them. It’s those experiences that make for memories to warm our hearts and souls later in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’d love to go to England! But like you, I am always anxious about the “getting there” part of the trip. Airports are such a hassle, and highways are scary. I still go, and once I get to my destination I have a great time, but I stress about the travel before we leave. I wish I lived closer to England, but it will be a long flight over. Still going to do it someday!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You touched a chord with me mentioning BC. We are lucky enough to be within a days drive and have spent some wonderful hours at Butchart, Victoria, Vancouver Island. Such a beautiful part of the globe. I am itching to see Newfoundland and Nova Scotia someday and Montreal sounds wonderful too. I really do want to return to Europe and see more of Italy, then France, The UK, Spain, Portugal, and perhaps Iceland. That’s enough to dream about for now. I think you are blooming where you’re planted Maggie and there’s nothing wrong with that at all! The travel anxiety is impossible to avoid, but I try to keep my eye on the destination and power through it. Usually, it is worth it. Happy Travels Maggie, even if it’s just a day or two, it’s nice to see something new now and again.


  18. For years, we intended to go overseas to visit the places where our ancestors lived in the UK, but as the time drew closer we went right off the idea. We might go to New Zealand, perhaps, after our little dog passes on. In the meantime, Australia has more than enough sites to see.

    I understand your reluctance to get on a plane. Best not replace your fond memories with a modern experience! Loved your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up a good point about reasons to stay close to home: the pets. Our two cats are OK for one night one their own, but beyond that we need to ask someone to care for them. Sheltering them at a vets or pet “spa” is not an option.

      Love your advice to “best not replace your fond memories with a modern experience!”

      Liked by 1 person

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