The Nightmare Summer Vacation of July 1984.
On June 30, 1984 my wife Cathou (Catherine Jacques) and I went to Mirabel Airport from our home in Pierrefonds, QC, and took a late evening Air Canada flight for London's Heathrow, arriving there on July 1, 1984 at 6:30 in the morning. We had just gotten off the plane, when who should we be just behind, but Jacques Parizeau who was waiting for a Redcap to pick up his baggage. I, knowing that such a service did not exist, immediately made Jacques Parizeau aware of that. We then went to Victoria Station and got a cab to the appointed hotel that Trafalgar Tours had advised us was near Earls Court. My sister and her husband came down from West Croydon, Surrey to meet us at the hotel that very same evening. We went out for a stroll with them and chatted for a while.
Next morning we got on a bus that was to take us on our tour of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The tour bus began the TOUR at about 8:00 AM and we carried to Bristol and then on to Fishgar, Wales, from where we were to take our bus on to the ferry and debark at Cobh, Ireland. We made it to a small village where we stopped over for the night. The hotel had a pianist and while he was playing "Danny Boy" I started to sing. The pianist went on to play "Isle of Innisfree" and "Galway Bay" and the other 52 American, Australian and Kiwi tourists from our tour gathered around me and when I had finished they lauded me for my voice and we then we retired for the night.
Next morning a few of the tourists ate breakfast with me and my wife Cathou, who seemed angry over something. The bus then took us to Galway Bay and then to an Irish Crystal cut-glass factory and we were given a tour of the place. From there we went to Blarney Castle and nearby Dirty Nellies pub. At Blarney Castle I kissed the Blarney Stone and had a photo taken. The very next evening we were invited to attend an American-Irish wedding by the couple who were getting married, and we enjoyed the sing-song till late in the night. My wife Cathou seemed very annoyed at something but would not say why?
While the Tourist bus was traveling, the Australians began to sing: "Waltzing Matilda" and "The Wild Colonial Boy" and I joined in, but my wife was very, very annoyed. And she would not say why.
The day following was the 4th of July, and we went to the Seamsa theatre (Irish Theatre) and listened to songs in Gaelic. We then celebrated Independence Day with Patriotic American songs. But my wife Cathou kept aloof and distanced herself from the crowd of American tourists. I joined in the singing because I knew most of the songs. My wife then very annoyed asked me, "why are you singing American songs?" I told her that it was also part of our common culture and we share a lot.
The bus then took us back from Ireland to England and we stopped off at a few places. After that we headed for Scotland and crossed over the Scottish border at Gretna Green, where we got married by the Blacksmith over the Anvil. We carried to Loch Lomand and then went to see the Lady of the Lake. From there we went to Edinburgh, and attended a toasting of the Haggis with a lot of fanfare. We then stopped off at Edinburgh Castle, and visited the museum.
On our way back to England we stopped off at various sites and by evening we were tired and had to stop-over for the night at a hotel. When we got up next morning, we went down to have breakfast at the dining room. We sat down and a girl from Los Angeles came over and sat down at our table. We began a conversation and went on to talk of our trip, and the girl from Los Angeles asked me where I learned to sing? I told her that at age seven, I was singing songs of opera and then joined a choir, and after that like most men of the Merchant Navy I liked to sing. I had learned many Scots songs and I liked them too. The American girl then told me, "I have never heard anyone sing like you do!"
My wife Cathou then got up and berated the girl, saying "you Americans are savages and I have a lot of talent and you would not know that, would you?" The girl got up and left. I asked my wife what was that outburst was all about. She said "they are not praising me!" I asked her "what do you want them to praise you for?" She replied: "I am a canadienne and that is a talent in itself."
We flew back to Montreal the next day, and my wife was in a very angry frame of mind. When we got home, my wife told me, "you are not allowed to sing anymore in the house". I thought that it was absolutely crazy, but then she was a Kebecoise and that is their way of banning other cultures.
The Summer Holiday of 1984 in the British Isles turned out to be a nightmare for me, and I shall not ever forget it as long as I live. My life had been a virtual nightmare and to think that I had to go through all this was indeed something that I will never be able to remove from my memory.
Kenneth T Tellis