I had a slight communication problem with my in-laws as I was giving them directions to come up from Toronto. We're renting the place from a family called the "Hartvikssens". I gave a detailed description of how to find the place as it's quite off the beaten track. I finished by telling my mother-in-law to simply ask for the Hartvikssens when she got close, as everyone knows everyone round these parts. They were an hour late to arrive and we were just getting worried when their car rolled down the dusty track to the cottage. The problem turns out to have been my accent. For the last hour my in-laws had been asking all of the neighbours where the "Hot Vixen's" cottage was? They didn't get very much help, more a general sentiment that this wasn't that kind of area. One old boy did suggest a cottage down by the lake where the lady owner likes to sunbathe naked on her deck. I'm going to take the boat down that way tomorrow, just to check out the area, you understand.
Life's not easy up here in the northern wilderness of Canada. It's a far cry from the gay Cotswolds where the worst thing that happens is the local Starbucks running out of low-fat milk. Up here, bears rip your rubbish bins apart and a roadkill skunk can ruin the weekend for everyone within a 500-metre radius. My in-laws' dog got sprayed by one yesterday and she's now in purdah. The stench is unbelievable, like death warmed up and almost impossible to get rid of. My father-in-law tells me that the old remedy was to bathe the hound in tomato juice, but even he looks doubtful about this.
It's all pioneer spirit for now - we've had no electricity for three days thanks to an incredibly powerful summer storm. At least it broke the back of the unbelievably hot weather (Humidex of up to 47C) that we've been having. Trees are down all around us and in the nearby town the new roof of the curling rink is sitting proudly on the roof of Canadian Tyre that's on the other side of Main Street. It's all quite exciting. We're blocked in and can't go anywhere by car so I do all the errands on my boat, manfully returning to the cottage with food and drink for the family.
There are little shallow bays dotted along the lake where the bottom is gloriously sandy and my little boy, Jackson, can waddle about to his heart's content. We came up with this great game where he runs inland to the edge of the beach and then sprints towards the water, hurls himself in face first and I have to quickly rescue him before he disappears underwater. It's not the cleverest of games but we were having a lot of fun.
To the side of us, a very serious-looking five-year-old boy was standing in the surf transfixed by the action. He finally turned to me, as I lay, basking in the shallows, watching my little two-year-old hurtle towards his target. "Are you a daddy?" he enquired. I had to admit to the serious-looking little fellow that, yes, I was a daddy and not just some random sadist tempting two-year-olds towards a watery grave. He looked unconvinced and wandered off, probably to call out the Mounties. I got Jackson back in the boat and we roared off. I didn't fancy a night in the police station, especially as it had lost its roof in the storm as well.
Speaking of Jackson, he has also announced to his Canadian family that he wants to be called "Bubbles" from now on. When asked his name he replies, very clearly, "Bubbles Joly" and no longer responds to his given name. When he was born and I told my mum that we'd decided to call him Jackson, her reply was: "What, like the paedophile?" It took me a couple of seconds to realise that she was referring to the allegations against Michael Jackson whereas we'd had Jackson Pollock more in mind. It seems that the controversy has upset our son as well as he's now decided to change his name to that of the troubled entertainer's pet chimpanzee.
We'll support him whatever he decides.