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The Burgeo Beat: How did you end up in Burgeo?

Martin O’Hara
Martin O’Hara - Submitted


How did you end up in Burgeo?

People don't ask that much these days, but they did when I was first here.

It's a reasonable question and I don't mind at all, but I'm not sure what to say: “I don't have a GPS.” How's that? Or, “blown off course.”

But that's not what they mean.

I'm obviously from away. You can tell. For a start, I speak with a funny accent. Sure, I was born on an English-speaking island in the North Atlantic and grew up on that island, like my father and mother before, but not this island, not The Island. You can always tell, my son.

I wanted to travel, so I had foreign service jobs most of my professional life: first in Europe and subsequently the Middle East, the Congo, then Nepal and then finally, in the USA, but that job still involved frequent travel overseas.

Our family lived on four continents before we parents, three kids, two dogs and a tractor trailer full of stuff came to Canada 20 years ago. Back then, people would ask how I ended up in Nova Scotia. They could tell, too.

A lot can happen given time, and it did. Unforeseen developments.

Eventually, I found myself doing translations for a living with a big black dog in a big-ish white house. I mean, it was big for just one man and a dog. Mind, the dog liked it. He occupied two of the bedrooms and all the downstairs except for my office. We shared the shed. It was an arrangement that worked well.

All the same, alone again, I felt again the urge to see what was round the next bend, but the dog wasn't having that, so we stayed on in Nova Scotia.

Then the dog died. Oh, oh!

I sold the big-ish white house and all the stuff. I sold the grey station wagon as well and got a shining V6 two-seater coupe (with spoiler and twin exhausts) and said to myself, “I can go anywhere I want: the Yukon, B.C., Montreal, Pukatawagan, name it!”

But you can tell yourself that you might choose to do this, that or the other thing when all the time, in some private corner of your soul, the choice has already been made.

I looked at a map – I like maps. Newfoundland, eh? I had met a few Newfoundlanders (the first in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where else?). It was striking how they loved their homeland with a convincing, almost contagious, love. Looking at the map, I was struck by something else: if you get off the boat at Port aux Basques and drive north for a long time, then east for a while and then south for another long time, you come to Burgeo. It's no distance from Port aux Basques as the crow flies but it takes you all day (even in a V6) to get there.

Not only that, there actually is another road from PAB which starts out for Burgeo in the right direction but then gives up half way, as if finding the task impossible. What is going on? ask myself.

So next thing you know, I am signalling right, just past Stephenville, onto provincial Route 480 on a crisp, blustery November day in 2015.

The 480 needs no help from me and I won't try to describe it. It is a light unto its own day and truly remarkable, but where does it begin?

Ruthlessly literal people will say, “At the Trans-Canada turn-off. There's a big sign.” But for me, maybe it began in Saudi Arabia? Cameroon? Mexico? There isn't an answer, it's unknowable.

But this is sure: it stops in Burgeo. It goes no further. You turn and go back whence you came or you stay.

So, I can't really say how I came to end up in Burgeo, but I'm very glad I did and I'm staying.


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