Rumpole has ever been a man reluctant to separate himself from the Law. Thus on the day we were to drive to Harrison Hot Springs he was poring over some tomes in the downtown Law Library. He breezed in at 4pm and proceeded to argue his reasons for why he should not bring a formal jacket, on this, our 30th Anniversary. He cleverly won by reminding me that way back when we tied the knot, he had not worn anything but sweaters and jeans, and the ever so necessary rain-slicker. So why would we not do the romantic thing and dress down in remembrance of our youth? Naturally, he neglected the fact that after thirty years we could both do with considerable spackle and polish, to fill our numerous cracks and bring our tarnished lustre to a dullish glow.
Suitcase in the trunk and digital camera on the front between the two of us, we drove off in beautiful sunshine of the late November afternoon. It was a scenic drive. We found a good rock station with golden oldies rock and sang along, admired the gorgeous views. We were delighted the weather was not a reprise of our honeymoon torrential rainstorm, and high-fived our good fortune. As the twilight settled we had arrived at Harrison Mills.
“Look,” Rumpole mentioned, “The mountain up ahead is on fire.”
I had my sunglasses on, as my eyes were again infected and sore. “Where’s the fire?” I just couldn’t see it.
“Oh, for God’s sake, take off your sunglasses,”said he with an exasperated tone. “See the lights up ahead, the smoke? There – straight ahead.”
Well it looked like fog to me, the kind of low-lying stuff that wreathes the bottoms of mountains this time of year. The lights were the usual foggy star shapes that might indicate an electric light on a pole. But then I don’t see at all well nowadays, and rather than incur a long winded argument between us, I concurred. “Ah yes. I see (fingers crossed, liar liar pants on fire)Do you think it might be campers?”
“Are you kidding? In November? Nope – probably a slash burn.” He didn’t see fit to report it and we drove on.
In dark of late afternoon, we arrived at the lakeshore and drove around looking for a parking spot, near the resort. No joy. Rumpole is an independent sort of fellow; doesn’t like maps, nor signage. So we drove around some more. He was becoming quite irritated. After I figured he was thoroughly fed up, I gently suggested we drive up to the port cochere and ask the attendant where we might park the car. As it turned out, parking was at some distance, and Rumpole didn’t want to drag our suitcase for that long a walk. He let me wait inside the lobby for him, with the bag. This suited me just fine. I got to scope out the lobby.
Directly in front of the wheezing automatic doors, inside, a large painted chainsaw-sculpture of the cigar-store Indian variety greeted visitors. So far, so bad. Hasn’t it yet dawned on German and Japanese tourists that these artifacts went out of fashion when cowboy movies did? A couple of Japanese business-men in casual attire, both sporting neck-slung cameras took turns gaily posing with the Indian. Brother! Talk about cliche! Political incorrectness, eh?
Rumpole arrived, with reddened cheeks from exerting himself on the long trek from the parking spot, and took a double-take as he spotted the Japanese men checking their digital pics. The Indian was gazing, quite oblivious, into the distant lake vistas. The guys decided to do retakes, and Rumpole threw them an amused glance as he looked about for me. The Indian didn’t twitch a muscle, but I was snerkling under my breath, trying to smother down a loud laugh which was threatening to erupt.
Booking in was a breeze. We were given a detailed map of the premises, key-cards and sent on our way to find our room. As Rumpole grasped my elbow and led me around the Indian to climb a few stairs, he noted a bunch of older men, wearing white bathrobes strolling toward us. “These guys must be on their way to the lake to practice for their January Polar Bear swim,” he conjectured. We stopped and looked at the map. Yep, either they were on their way out of the hotel and down to the beach, or they were visiting Miss Daisy’s Cafe located slightly to the east of the Indian. Shrugging with relief that dress code here was so informal, we proceeded up the stairs. More people of all ages and physical condition, lounging and strolling around in bathrobes. HMMM.
“Don’t look now – there’s a cop behind you.” Of course, Rumpole just had to look. Leaning against a pillar was a 10-foot tall stuffed toy Grizzly bear in formal Mountie dress uniform. It had its palms upturned as if seeking donations. Very natty,but oh so cliche! He was guarding the fireplace/piano/lounge room where a couple of men in bathrobes warmed themselves by a crackling gas fire, and a mother watched in irritation as two ten year old boys played video games on their laptops.
We looked around for the elevator. After consulting our maps we and 6 people in wet bathrobes got on the elevator which made herky-jerky progress to our floor. By the time we got off, my glasses had fogged over. Rumpole had to lead me by the hand to our room.
First things first, I just had to find our bathrobes. Yep, they were in the closet where the coats and clothes would hang. I unloaded our suitcase and stashed our stuff while Rumpole, ever mindful of rules and regulations perused the Resort Information Booklet. “Get this,” he announced. “They charge for each phone call made to the desk, for wake-up calls, for concierge help…. haven’t found where it says ‘for breathing’, yet.” Of, so it was going to be like that, eh? “Oh, no” he complained.”It says here I have to wear good casual wear to eat dinner at the Copper Room.” We had arranged the tour package -room for two nights, breakfast for two mornings and our anniversary dinner at the “Copper Room”.
“Maybe they have a “rent-a-jacket” place on premises,”I said. “Or you can go down there tonight in the sweater you plan to wear to dinner tomorrow and ask if that would do? Alternately, we can do a nice drive home tomorrow morning to get your jacket.” Rumpole chose to do a walk about the place, find the hot-spring pools, the gymn, the spa and then casually drift by the Copper Room and ask the Maitre D’ whether he would be acceptable in sweater and good pants. After finding out we didn’t have to drive home to get a jacket, we strolled around trying to figure out with the help of the site map how to get to the Lakeshore Room, where we decided to have supper.
The Lakeshore Room had a huge waiting room with a crowd waiting for seating. We signed in and held up a wall. People there were trying to stave off their hunger with the dough-nuts provided to ease the long wait. It was good people watching opportunity. There was a family with two little girls and a rickety pair of grandparents in tow. The little girls sat in the only two available armchairs with their feet up on the seats, ordering the mother and father to go get them juice and doughnuts, while the doddering grandparents swayed on their feet, almost about to topple over. There was something very wrong with this picture. I waved my hand in their direction and gave Rumpole a disgusted sneer of disapproval. He pursed his lips and looked at this crew over the top of his glasses, looking very professorial. I’m certain he had not failed to notice that no-one waiting here was in bathrobes. Thus we did not fear being overdressed.
Dinner at the Lakeside Room was buffet style. On this occasion it might have been called “buffett” style. As I was raising the tongs to transfer some spinach salad to my salad plate, a Japanese lady of middle years hip-checked me and grasped the tongs out of my hand, filled her plate, smiled nicely and proceeded to do a number on Rumpole. We were so stunned that all we could offer by complaint was a weak, Canadian expression – “Sorry” and watch in bewilderment as the lady continued to make her way backward on the line butting in front of everybody. About this, I am proud of our Canadian tendency to say “sorry” whenever we have done nothing to be sorry about. Perhaps the English-Japanese guide book needs to make it clear that when we say “sorry” we are not really saying “go ahead, do whatever pleases you”. I noted that was going to be a point I made clear when filling out the visitors experience report after our stay.
“Don’t look now, but that Pushy Japanese woman is sitting right behind you,” whispered Rumpole. And of course, I looked.
“I should just dump my dinner plate on her after I go get my salmon and vegies, and say a cheery “Sorry”,” I hissed back.
“G, now don’t start something you can’t finish,” he admonished. “Just give her an elbow if she crosses you at the trough.”
Sure enough, I had just got my salmon, rice and vegies and decided to go with Rumpole to the Prime Rib area and augment my plate with a Yorkshire Pudding (never mind that’s not taditional accompaniment for salmon, who cares?) and voila, she reappeared again and much to the server’s controlled amusement bunted Rumpole aside and held out her plate for the piece of prime rib the server was about to place on his plate. “Sorry,” said Rumpole, automatically. He didn’t feed her an elbow. I admired his restraint and grinned at him with approval.
Back at our table, we ate and chuckled at the vagaries of travel to foreign places, at misunderstandings of manners. I jokingly told him that the resort should have a Buffet Etiquette book, translated in several languages in every room, and while they were at it might post a rule about people schlepping about all over the place in the near altogether in soggy white bathrobes. Seeing all those bloated bodies with bad hair, wet hair, hairy legs and poor posture might turn people off from eating altogether, never mind they had an obstacle course to follow at the buffet, with tourists nearly snatching morsels from proffered plates.
After dinner we went for an evening constitutional on the lakeshore, went back to our room and read in bed.
By morning my eye had swollen and took on the bright colouration of a sailboat’s port light. And it was sore. After breakfast buffet at the lakeshore Room, we had our eyes peeled for the Japanese lady, lest she come near us to snatch our croissants from our hungry grasp, or scrape butter pats from our plates. No such adventure to be had. She was most likely soaking in one of the hot pools, bless her.
I was concerned about my eye, as after we returned home from the weekend I was slated to go for surgery on Tuesday morning. Here it was a Sunday, so where could we find a doctor handy? Rumpole went off to bring the car from parking in the boonies, and I went off to the concierge desk to find out if there was a local medical clinic open. The concierge called around to Hope, nope, the clinic there was closed. The nearest clinic, in Aggasiz, was also closed. But, Bingo! The clinic in Chilliwack, a mere half-hour drive away, was open. She made us a good map, and by the time Rumpole arrived with the car at the porte cochere, we were good to go. Only it was raining really hard, which kind of ruined the scenic aspects of the drive.
The clinic in Chilliwack was not full with patients, so we got to see the doctor quickly. She took a look at my eye and said to Rumpole “You’ve got to stop punching this poor woman.” I took an instant liking to this doctor; however Rumpole didn’t seem to approve of this light-hearted, put-the-patient-at-ease banter. He sat looking quite crest-fallen as I hastened to encapsulate the medical history of my eye over the past 8 months and made it perfectly clear that it was not result of a wife beating. The doctor was adamant that I cancel the upcoming Tuesday operation, gave a scrip for antibiotic drops and sent us on our way. We filled the prescription at a nearby pharmacy and went back to the resort.
The rain was pouring down in earnest. Rumpole decide to parade around in the resort in his white bathrobe while I took a nap. Much later in the afternoon, with him refreshed from his soaking in hot mineral water and me in a warm bath in our room, we decided to explore thoroughly all the amenities of the hotel, and do a long indoor walk, interspersed with climbing many stairs. On the way back to our room to change into our finery, we stopped in at an expensive ladies wear shop in the lobby, where I admired the lacy, gauzy and beaded confections that were more suited to women under 40, than to a woman of my vintage. Rumpole found a lovely metallic grey silk shawl that brought out the highlights of my gun-metal grey hair, wrapped it around my shoulders and said to the clerk “This, my wife will wear to the Copper Room for our anniversary dinner,” and bought it for me. We nipped upstairs and changed into our fancy duds. We looked pretty good together, we thought.
Off we went to the Copper Room, holding hands on the long walk there, severely overdressed compared to the bathrobed figures flitting here and there. We were seated at a table with good view of the dance floor. The band was good, in a cheesy Las Vegas kind of way, the singer had the mellifluous voice of a younger Wayne Newton/Englebert Humperdink cross and the food was delicious. We drank no wine, just water, and watched the dancers and sang along to old standards. There seems to have been a recent resurgence of ballroom dancing, because many couples on the dance floor strutted their stuff. Rumpole does not dance. He feels about dancing as cats do about being immersed in water. But he made an exception for this occasion; he would dance to a song I requested in honour of our anniversary. I perked up – goody, I get to dance a wee bit. I asked the Maitre D’ to send my request to the band, Eric Clapton’s “You look wonderful tonight.” Soon, the band made the announcement. Rumpole took my hand, and I dragged him to the dance floor. The band began to play “Yooo loook boeetifoool too meee….. can’t yooo seeee….” Gag, Barf, Ick….. the song both Rumpole and I absolutely loathe. Rumpole was helpless with laughter, so much so that he couldn’t keep rhythm and lead. Not that he could anyway even when concentrating. So I led us around the dance floor, and we giggled as we stomped around, trying not to interfere with skilled dancers. Well, we were the oldest people on the dance floor, and the worst dancers, but we had an excuse – we came from a generation where ball-room dancing was the antithesis of cool.
So cool were we, that after watching the antics of some really fine comic ballroom-dancers, we started yawning and decided to repar to our room to read in companionable collapse. My eyes were sore, so I managed a page before dozing off. I was suddenly snatched from blessed oblivion to find Rumpole sneakily easing a couple of pillows from under my head. “Go back to sleep,” he groused. “You’re such a pillow hog. I need some extra pillows for reading.” Ah, loving, romantic words from my husband of thirty years. He never said that thirty years ago!
The next morning, a horrible windstorm accompanied the torrential rains. We had to leave this land-locked cruise ship experience and return home to daily routines. But first, Rumpole had to brave the elements to go get the car and bring it to the front of the Resort. Of course, being British Columbians from the Lower Mainland, we need umbrellas as winter accessories. But being us, we left them in the trunk of the car, so poor fellow made his way in the downpour and arrived back with the car, soaked to the skin and with the windows badly fogged up. After loading up, we waited for half an hour until the car’s heater could deal with his evaporating clothes and our moist exhalations.
We drove home, singing and chatting and listening to the weather reports. Shades of our honeymoon trip thirty years ago!Trees were downed everywhere, power outages beset a large number of people, the ferries were not running on schedule and hundreds of people were stranded on either side of Georgia Straight on the last day of this Remembrance Day weekend. About fifteen miles from our town, we came upon a road block, were rerouted on unfamiliar back roads and arrived home two hours later than anticipated. Our luck held. No power outage at our house, and it was nice to be back in our comfy digs.
It occurred to us as we were drinking coffee in the kitchen after unloading the car, that we had not taken a single picture of our weekend, or had another tourist take our picture grinning and mugging in front of the cigar store Indian, or the Grizzly in Mountie uniform. But then this comes as no huge surprise, we have not one photo from our honeymoon either. But we do have memories to share. That’s what counts to me,