Kia Ora and going the Extra Mile.

Tonight I’m on a trans-Pacific flight from LA to Melbourne via Auckland. There are kids on this flight who have been on a trip to Disneyland courtesy of the Koru Care charity which is sponsored by Air New Zealand.  To continue the Disneyland experience, the flight attendants have all dressed up in fancy dress to serve the kids and make their flight more fun.   

 
Dinner and drinks were served by Minnie Mouse and Tinkerbell, while coffee was served by a CHiPS police officer.  

 
I have to say that he did take it very well when I asked when the rest of the Village People were coming out.

I’m so impressed by the continual efforts of the staff to do everything to make the flight memorable and fun. It’s a great war to promote the charity, too. 

They’ve also been wonderful to me after a very long and emotionally exhausting day. After a painful and tearful farewell followed by extended flight delays and an international connection time that was whittled down from 6.5 hours to 47 minutes, in which I managed baggage claim, terminal transfer with all my luggage, check in and baggage drop, security checks and getting to the right gate before they closed the flight. When I realised I had made my flight, I burst into tears of relief. The attendants were just lovely and so supportive, and did everything they could to reassure and comfort me. 

I love flying with Air New Zealand and I love the way they treat their clients. They’ve won me. 

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The saga of Flight 781

Although I’ve done a lot of flying,
I’ve never had such trouble trying
Just to reach my destination
Due to airline procrastination.
We boarded the aircraft right on time
And taxied to the runway line,
But there we stopped for almost an hour:
The plane’s hydraulics had no power
And you can’t fly when that’s not working,
So after a lot of excuses and jerking
Around we had to leave that plane
And go through boarding once again…
The company found a new aircraft
For us, but the people in the last
Six rows got bumped to another flight
Leaving a little later that night.
Once we boarded, we sat and waited
And got even more frustrated:
There was a problem with this plane, too.
What a joke! What could we do?
We took off almost four hours late;
By that time things weren’t looking great –
Some had connections they wouldn’t make,
Others had kids who didn’t take
Too well to such extended delay.
Would we ever get to LA?
Down the back, a poor child screaming
Echoed what we all were feeling:
After all this helter-skelter,
Perhaps next time, I’ll fly Delta. 

The Philipsburg Pier. 

The Philipsburg Pier originated as a wooden jetty in the 1780s which enabled trade with the USA via Lake Champlain ports. 

The most common good exported via the Philipsburg pier were racehorses, marble, carriages, logs and milled timber. 

When the Champlain Canal opened in 1823, linking Lake Champlain to the Hudson River, trade with New York and the greater New England area of the US opened up. The jetty was upgraded and enlarged by 1836 so that supply, particularly of milled timber, could meet the demand. 

Despite competition from rail transport later in the 1800s, Lake Champlain trade continued unabated. By 1872, Philipsburg had a population of 271 and a very lucrative trade turnover of $20000 per annum. 

The pier was upgraded again in 1895, and was only downgraded due to lack of commercial demand in 1937. 

  
Today, the pier is used for recreation, largely fishing and pleasure boating. It’s also a really lovely place to sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

  
   

Philipsburg.

The village of Philipsburg was established in 1784 by Empire Loyalists who moved to Canada from New York after the USA won her independence from the British. 

Two earlier attempts by the French to settle the area had been unsuccessful. The region was named St Armand by the French in 1748.

The Iroquois had villages here in the northernmost part of their territory, and they lived a settled and peaceful way of life. Across the lake were the Algonquians and some Abenakis, living in the southernmost reaches of their lands. 

  
The village was named after Philip Ruiter, a pioneer in the area.

The Canadian authorities were not keen to see settlement here because they felt it was too close to the American border. It’s easy to see why the settlers chose this place, though. 

  
Located on the shore of Lake Champlain among woods on rolling hills and rich earth for farming, Philipsburg offered plenty of opportunities for farming, hunting, fishing, and enjoying a pretty view of the lake from one’s front porch. 

  

Today, Philipsburg is still a pretty lakeshore village with those same opportunities, within easy reach of the Eastern Townships and the cities of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Montreal, as well as convenient access to the US state of Vermont via the border crossing at the Highgate Centre. 

I’ve had the privilege of calling Philipsburg home for only a short time, but I will always love this place. My mornings spent by the lake have been precious times of reflection and serenity, and part of my heart will always remain here. 

Accidentally shot…

A stone marker commemorating Margaret Vincent’s death is hidden on a back country road at Eccles Hill, near Frelighsburg, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. 

   

It reads “Margaret Vincent Accidentally shot by the Royal Fusiliers June 10, 1866.”

This dates to the time of the Fenian raids into Canada over the American border, which occurred throughout the 1860s. 

The Fenians were Irishmen who hated England and resented British domination over the Irish and their negligence during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. Groups such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Fenian Brotherhood were formed in the 1850s, and it was these groups who surged over the border into Canada into areas such as Frelighsburg and St Armand. 

On June 7, 1866, hundreds of Fenian men crossed into Canada.

The only Canadian forces in the St Armand area were three companies of infantry, comprised largely of non-commissioned men and volunteers, under the command of Captain W Carter of HM 16th Regiment.

The alarm was raised: “The Fenians are coming!” Fearful farmers near the border tore up roads and railway lines, and abandoned homes and farms. 

Carter panicked and ordered his troops to withdraw. His troops never did forgive him for what they perceived as an act of impulsive cowardice. 

The Fenians held Pigeon Hill, Frelighsburg and St Armand. 

Mistaken for a Fenian, Margaret was a 71 year old deaf-mute who was shot when she failed to respond to an officer’s order.  Given her disability,  it’s no wonder she didn’t follow the Fusiliers’ orders.  Even so, she probably didn’t look much like an angry, armed man with authority issues. 

The marker is really quite diplomatically phrased, given that Margaret was hardly a threat to anyone. She was shot in error, but not accidentally. 

 
Margaret Vincent’s grave is located up the hilly road at Pigeon Hill Cemetery.  The marker at Eccles Hill is maintained by the local community in honour of the elderly woman who died there so long ago.

Fall.

Today the leaves are positively dive-bombing off the trees. 

  
The sun is shining again and the sky is azure blue, but yesterday’s snow has caused the autumn leaves to give up hope and cast themselves to the ground. 

  
Roads, garden beds and grass are carpeted with those who have already fallen, while other more hopeful souls still cling desperately to their tree. 

  
It’s easy now to understand why North Americans call this season Fall as well as Autumn. 

Even on a still, sunny morning, leaves dive and drift, collecting in rather tragic piles beneath the increasingly bare trees that only a week ago were vibrant with colour. 

In Australia, I never really had the perception of so many leaves falling and fluttering, or languishing in the breeze. Most of our trees stay green, and the occasional ornamental maple or elm shedding its leaves in a garden or the main street of a country town doesn’t really have the same impact, as beautiful as it may be. 

This sad abandonment of Autumn splendour has a beauty all its own. I’m very privileged to be able to sit here in the sunshine and witness it. 

The Islands of Lake Champlain, Vermont. 

Lake Champlain is North Anerica’s sixth-biggest lake. Within  the lake, on the Vermont/New York side of the Canadian border, lie a number of islands that were first seen by European eyes in 1609 when Samuel de Champlain led an exploratory expedition through the area. 

   
   
The islands are joined by bridges and a causeway which make touring the islands very easy.  The scenery is gorgeous, and there are lots of interesting places to explore. Tourists can explore military history, gourmet food and wine, walking or cycling paths, and number of towns seeking to attract tourists with different places to stay and things to do. 

On the Causeway to Grand Isle is an American flag and a monument to the victims of 9/11 and to the American veterans of foreign wars. 

   
   
From this point, you can look west and see the shoreline of New York State and the Adirondack Mountains, and you can look east and see the Vermont shoreline and mountains in the distance. Further north, the lake crosses the Canadian border into Quebec. 

 

It’s no surprise, then, that Isle La Motte, South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero, Valcour and the remaining islands all served as important vantage points in battles between American and Canadian/British forces during the War of 1812. 

If for no other reason, the Islands are well worth a visit just because it’s a really pretty drive along the lake shore. 

   
   

Isle La Motte, Vermont.

On the Isle La Motte in Lake Champlain, Vermont is the site of the Fort of St Anne, the first European settlement in Vermont which dates back to 1666. While the French under the command of Captain Pierre La Motte built the fort for defence against the Mohawks, the Jesuits built the altar and sanctuary in honour of Saint Anne.   

 
Today there is still a shrine to St Anne and an outdoor Stations of the Cross which is visited by many people for prayer and reflection every year.
   
    
   

While the fort and it’s defences are long gone, it’s easy to see why this place was chosen 350 years ago for both defensive and spiritual reasons, and why people continue to visit today. 

It’s a place of worship and reflection, which is something visitors should keep in mind, both in dress and behaviour. 

Pulling cheese.

Okay. This is a new one on me. I’ve just had my first string cheese experience.

  

Apart from the very “American cheese” colour, it looks just like the Kraft cheese sticks that we have in Australia, but it’s a lot more fun because you can pull strings of cheese off and torture your cheese as you eat it.

  

 You can even have competitions to see who can pull the thinnest string.

Food and entertainment in one hit.
Aces.

The Perils of Trampolining.

Watching Family Feud this afternoon, the question was “Name a part of your body that might hit you in the face when bouncing on a trampoline.” 

After the regular answers such as hand, arm, leg, knee, and fingers, there was just one answer left. 

One guy suggested “your butt”. Hysterical. Not surprisingly, though, it wasn’t on the list. 

The opposing team suggested that a man’s junk might hit him in the face. 

Then this conversation happened between the three of us watching together.

V: “Do you want to tell me how a man is going to get whacked in the face with that?”

J: “You mean that’s never happened to you?”

Me: “If men could work out how to make that happen, they’d never be bored again.”

Those ten seconds were more entertaining than the whole show.