How surprising are our life changing moments.

I had just finished teaching water skiing at a Summer Camp in Vermont, when Sharon flew over from London, We hiked the Appalachian trail with the one and only Jack Young, then bought an old Falcon for sixpence. Our plan was to drive west across the States, but first see some Canadian friends from the Trans Siberian Railway days,

So we rolled up to Niagara Falls at dawn, did silly things like walk above them up to our knees, then when going through Canadian Customs, were greeted with heaps of genuine friendliness, So, after meeting our friends in Toronto, Canada seemed such a genial land, that we idly asked, can we perhaps get work here ?

“Sure”, they replied, “just depends on your vocation etc.”

We looked in the paper, and here were two jobs at a Ski Resort, for a Receptionist, and Barman. Sharon had been a Private Secretary, and Receptionist would be easy for her .. while I’d drunk in heaps of Bars, so figured I’d work out how to be a Barman.

We rang the Resort up. and they said sure, come on up.

.. and this what always amazes me .. how quickly our entire lives can turn on one small moment ..

That morning, playing in the rapids above Niagara Falls, we had no intention in the wide world of staying in Canada .. yet 8 hours later .. were driving west to brand new jobs in a Ski Resort.

It was called “Talisman”, and nestled in the “Blue Hills” of Ontario.

Sharon quickly mastered her job, while I struggled a bit. In Australia, men scoffed beer, while women drank mix’s such as Whisky and Dry. Here men drank the mix’s, while ladies preferred cocktails. Many of these have 4 or more ingredients, so I watched all the other Bartenders, and soon had a hell of a cheat sheet under the bar.

Staff could live at the Resort, but we found a small wooden cabin up in the hills, only used in Summer. It was such a beautiful place .. yet all the locals said ..

You Aussies are mad as hatters. this is early Autumn, the Winter will get you.”

.. it didn’t .. quite the opposite ..

In lands like Australia, (well most of it), we only have Summer and a temperate Winter .. yet here, in Ontario, to experience all four seasons was truly mind boggling.

The little cabin looked out over a large valley .. which, as Autumn progressed, daily changed into a blazing riot of colours from yellow to orange .. then one leaf fell, and another, until the entire land was stripped bare of foliage, waiting stark naked for the first snow. Till one morning every living creature awoke in a pure white world.

This whole scenario was awesome .. for the first time we perceived how our Earth is one living entity .. forever being re-born.

It was so beautiful to come home to the cabin at night, By now I was Bar Manager so worked till midnight, then we’d drive as far up as the old Falcon could go. (It had no central heating, holes in the floor, and not even snow tires. While the cabin had only a wood fire, and an outside dunny 50m away in the snow). So we’d leave the car in a snowbank, then walk home, crunch crunch through a brilliant fairytale moonlit night.


With the snow came the skiers, and Talisman became a hive of activity. They had 14 Ski Instructors; week long coaching schools; and on weekends would be swamped with Toronto revellers.

We’d run downhill in the morning, push the Falcon out of it’s current snowbank, and Sharon would start work .. yet I didn’t clock on till late arvo, plus had free ski and lift use, So would have great mornings hurtling down the slopes. I had no style, but could go fast, till, every now and then you’d find yourself mid-air, (just like the Wile E Coyote cartoons), and thinking oh dear here we go !

Then there’d be a swim and sauna, stocking the bars, and checking our books. We’d brew up huge drums of hot rum toddies, and, when the rush came, simply ladle them out at a dollar a shot. Once that was well underway, I’d hang a gold key around my neck, and nick off to play Maitre D in the Dining Room. Open French wines, drop little phrases about their bouquet, (which I’d only read in a wine book last night), then get the Disco up and running.

It was also lots of fun working at the Resort.

All the skiers would rock in at sunset to party big time .. there was dancing, and often Waitresses would take trays out after Dinner, and Toboggan down the slopes ..

.. plus a classic tale.

My great mate from Camp Norway in Vermont, Dennis Shifflet and his lovely wife Sharon came to visit. Now, (as previously mentioned in “Magic Moments”), Dennis was an amateur US wrestling champ, but a gentle giant. He’d never tried this snow skiing thang, so went out to have a go.

However there was a Doctors wife who sometimes came in for a quiet drink in the arvo. I’d be just doing the books, so we got to chatting. She was afraid of Skiing cos of an accident years ago. Gradually I encouraged her to have another try .. so she did.

Can you guess what happened ?

Yes she was only half way to the T-bar, when a huge bloke came careening down out of control, (Dennis),and ran clean over her !

Oh boy, there was some explaining then.

We loved Canada, tis a great country .. especially the fun and frivolity, which country folk there share with each other and passing friends.

One such night will always be treasured ..


Twas Christmas .. we were invited into the back of a hay covered wagon .. then towed to a house. All on board sang Carols, till the owners asked us to come in .. gave everyone food and drink, then also climbed aboard. Off we all went to sing outside the next house .. then on and on it went, growing ever larger.

What a wonderful moment, so many folk in a pure white world, singing beneath a clear shining sky, and sharing the beauty of life.



When the season finished, we swapped the Falcon for a t-shirt, and delivered a car across the states .. 

How that happens is like this :-

It is a common occurrence for people moving from the East to West coast, to fly over and get someone else to deliver their car. They will pay you a fee, plus free petrol. So we got in touch with the car delivery folks, and were given a big spanking new Cadillac ! So we drove from Chicago, clean across the ol wild west, over the southern Rockies, and down through the forests of Washington State to Vancouver.


                                                                          Then flew out to Fiji .. but that’s another story.