Friday, July 3, 2009

Finally :)

I am ready to go. After a series of frustrating delays everything has finally come together. My bricks are in the back of Paul Bromley's boat. We're leaving at 4am tomorrow morning. This will be my last post until I get back later in the summer. Wish me luck and tune into my Spot page to keep track of me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bricks II - The Saga Continues...

Yes, they have arrived. But it was not an uneventful arrival. It was, in fact, a bit of a mess.

First thing Monday morning I got on the phone with Bill at Ornamental Concrete. I needed to find out where exactly my bricks were and when they were going to get here. He made a few calls and then got back to me saying they would arrive on Thursday. Then, a few hours later, he called again to say they would be here on Tuesday. At that point it became clear to me that he didn't really know anything. So I got on the phone with Day and Ross myself. It took a couple hours, and many subsequent calls, but I finally found someone who was able to tell me where my bricks were. Corey at customer service insisted that they had arrived in Conche at 5:33pm last Friday. Well, I had been to the fish plant and they definitely weren't there, but Corey came back to me and said someone named T. Reid even signed for them.

I'll admit, sometimes I overlook the obvious, so in acknowledgement of that I went back to the fish plant to have a look. I scoured the place, and they absolutely were not there. Then, rather luckily, I ran into Scott Patey, the plant manager. He told me to call a few businesses in Roddickton and just to ask around about whether they had seen the bricks. Sure enough, first call I made I found them sitting in the loading dock at Roddickton Home Hardware. They had in fact been there since Friday evening, and Tyson Reid, the stock boy, had signed for them despite the fact they were addressed for someone in a different town. Apparently Day and Ross will deliver to Conche, but what they mean by that is they'll drop your gear off at some random place in Roddickton without telling anyone. Nobody contacted me, not Day and Ross, not Ornamental Concrete, not even Home Hardware. And - now this is the unbelievable part - my package was not the only one there! There was also a palette of boxes destined for the Conche summer garden party that had been missing for weeks! Apparently Day and Ross make a habit of serving their customers this way!

Having no other options I hired a local fellow with a pickup to bring my bricks the rest of the way into Conche. It took three trips and $200 to make this happen. And I could've easily gone to the islands on Monday had anyone known where the bricks were, so I lost three days of working in beautiful perfect weather. And I had to stay in Conche for an extra three nights, which cost me another $200.

I've called Day and Ross to try to recoup some of these losses. At the very least they should cover the $200 I spent completing their delivery for them. That was yesterday. Unfortunately today is Canada Day (everyone's on holiday) and tomorrow I'm leaving so I think there is very little possibility that any of this will ever be resolved to my satisfaction. I'll tell you one thing - I'll never trust Day and Ross with a shipment ever again. All in all their incompetence has cost me more than five hundred dollars.

On the upside, the fellows at the fishplant are having a good laugh - they've convinced one of the younger guys he has to carry all five hundred bricks by hand to the other side of the plant:


The cove is swimming in fish right now - the capelin are in, there are tomcods hiding under every boat, and I even just saw three salmon passing along by the end of the wharf.

Kilns and ovens

It's not unusual to find fire bricks along the beaches of the French Shore. I picked up these two today in Conche. They are the remnants of bread ovens made and used by migrant fishermen in times gone by. Just outside of Conche, in Crouse, there is an archeological dig happening. They are unearthing a French fishing site that was used from the 17th to 19th centuries. On Monday I had a tour of the site with Peter Pope, professor of archeology at MUN. The highlight of the tour for me were the bricks and stones that Peter says made up an oven that was probably used as long ago as the early 19th century. They are still in place where they stood against a wall of rock that functioned as the rear wall for the oven, although the arch and side walls have long since collapsed.

The French started making bread ovens in Newfoundland not long after the revolution in their homeland. One theory has it that the process of democratization instigated a desire for a few basic human rights - access to fresh food, for instance. Peter tells me there were no English bread ovens in Newfoundland contemporaneously to these early French ones, which I think is no surprise since the descendents of English settlers in Newfoundland still have no appreciation for fresh local foods.

I was lucky to discover that I am not the first to build an oven in this area, and that there is a tradition - albeit a lost tradition since the French were banished from their fishing grounds - of oven construction here. I'm going to take these two bricks to the Grey Islands with me and incorporate them into my kiln. They are beautiful and ancient, perhaps 200 years old, perhaps brought across the Atlantic from France, rounded and smoothed by the ocean, and still bearing a smoky colouring from countless uses. I realize it may be an archeological transgression to take these from the place where I found them, but it would equally be an artistic transgression to not acknowledge the precedents of local history and culture in my project.