God damn them all!
I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold
We'd fire no guns-shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier
The last of Barrett's Privateers.
Barrett's Privateers - song by Stan Rogers
So it was I found myself at the end of June heading to Privateer Days. I had heard of it but I had never been there. In recent years I had taken a fancy to Liverpool and Queens County where it is located. Next to Kings County in the Annapolis Valley, it was my favorite. Long live the King and Queen. Where Kings County has farmland, vineyards, rivers and red cliffs on a bay, Queens County has white sand beaches, lighthouses, quiet rivers and windy coastal towns with lots of seafaring history. Lunenburg County is next door and also nice. I’ve had more luck with sun there but it could just be chance.
I had heard of privateers but didn’t even know what they were. They appear to wear cool outfits. They seem to be government approved pirates I found out. I wondered if the governments would also wash their hands of them if they got into too much trouble. In today’s social media I imagine they would spin negative brown yarn to positive shining gold threads if they could. They would spin it in a way to make the government look good. If not they’d become scapegoats in a hurry.
If they could get away with things it was fine, the government would take the plunder and give the privateers their cut. If they were found out by the general populace the politicians of the day would call them pirates and claim no connection. I wonder what the modern day equivalent of a privateer is.
Often when I used to go out to Halifax pubs I would hear the song Barretts’ Privateers by Stan Rogers. It was like a provincial anthem and many knew the lyrics to it. It was just a song you would expect to hear sometimes when you were out. Again I was never sure what a privateer was. Now I know and I found out that Simeon Perkins was a hero too. Previously I had been to his house there. Liverpool has a rich history involving the British and Americans. It was an important port once.
Liverpool is an area of waxing and waning fortunes. Although strategically located in the past it doesn’t have much to bolster it at the moment. It is a nice little place with some great old houses and a central park with a main street that has a theatre and shops and restaurants. There are some museums and a river along with an old lighthouse. I have often thought it would be the perfect location for a university or college. It needs something lasting to keep it going.
The more I look into its history the more interesting it is. I’m not sure what the modern Privateer Days has to do with the past. Besides the Privateer fire hydrant I found across the street from the event (see above) there was not much more indication of anything of that era. Perhaps some skull and crossbones jewellery was supposed to evoke it but I’m not sure.
A wander around the park showed me hand woven baskets, T-shirts, batik type dresses, iron decorative items in various shapes. Privateers are glamorized pirates. It’s all in the uniform. I had to like the wooden furniture in mushroom shapes and rectangular or square things that looked like they would have been used in the Flintstones future wood episodes if they had happened. There were a lot “pet rocks” which were just painted rocks. I saw multi-colored knit purses and painted postcards. One person was selling old vinyl and video games next to 3 D animal pictures jumping out at me. It was a retro style fair. Perhaps there were mood rings but I may not have seen them. There were in fact dream catchers perhaps made by Indians from say Bear River I’m guessing. I don’t always ask too many questions of vendors for fear of being roped in though at these events they are usually low key.
Luckily I don’t need one of these at the moment. From time to time I have shocking dreams that wake me in the deep dark but usually they are stupid and predictable from the day’s events and I awake thinking “Spare me. I’m going back to sleep now. Is that the best you can do?” I hardly ever get the 3am terrors.
Meanwhile they were selling doughnuts, fish and chips, coffee and beaver tails had just pulled up. I have never had one but they look fun for the calorie carefree crowd. A beaver tail shaped piece of dough full of all kinds of ooey gooey stuff. Then there were the 75 flavours of an ice drink. Dill pickle looks fun as well as well as Tiger’s Blood and Pimp Juice.
I enjoyed music in the tent ranging from country to jazz while I was there. It was free by day. I left the jazz a bit early because the weather was a bit windy and I had left my coat in the car ( Lesson #1 bring layers, Lesson#2 don’t leave layers in the car) but also I wanted to go to the Farmer’s market across the street and get fresh strawberries before they sold out though it turned out they were prepared for the demand. What a nice change from frozen bagged unsweet ones or the hard, tasteless things that generally come all the way from California bred for the long journey and often on the verge of mold by the time they arrive here. These were soft and sweet. They yielded to my tongue and dripped their sweet red juices at my touch. I also got radishes and beet greens.
Across the street I found the Hell Bay Brewing Co. which is owned by four young people. One I spoke to said he had to this shore six years ago yet he seemed to have lost his British accent. I said that Brits should know about beer.
I wondered about the name as my map indicated a Hell Bay near Cherry Hill which I had just came from. He said that is where it started and I mentioned seeing a “Brewery” sign on a barn over there and he said that was where it used to be. Near that was Voglers Cove which had an old General Store and a few other buildings along with dark islands on a scenic grassy coast. It was the kind of place where I had to wait for tractor on the main road and the lake had a beaver’s dam in it.
I had gone to Cherry Hill to see the beach that I read about in a new book I bought called Beaches of Lunenburg Queens by Vernon Oickle. I have explored this coast a lot but I had never heard of this beach. As I started out on this journey in late June with summer only just starting I felt on a high with the sun rising in the blue sky and me at the wheel cruising the open road on a day off. I got to this beach and read about the plovers. These are cute birds with not the skills to nest out of harm’s way so they depend on human help for their survival. I would love to see one and when I saw the signs indicating their nests my five year old self wanted to go look but my much older self reigned her in.
No doubt the babies would be young now (or still in their shells) and it reminded me of tales of people finding a nest and touching the baby birds or eggs and tainting them for the mother. With plovers (rhymes with lovers) you apparently just need to come near and scare them off and that is enough. So I didn’t. But the sign said that off leash dogs were doing damage. I hope people read and learn.
So just as I got to this beach the brilliant sun ducked under cover of some perilous dark clouds but I continued my walk down the curve of the crescent of light sand empty of anyone life except birds and prints of humans and dogs. There were seagulls and other birds like swallows that flew low and seemed like they were trying divert me from their nest. They were either overly friendly or trying to lead me astray. I heard cheeps and chirps. Of course there were some waves but the tide was low and it looked a long way out to get fully wet. I walked in and thought that perhaps I could stand getting completely covered. It would be refreshing on a hot day but of course there were clouds and wind here. After so many months cloistered inside with the worst winter in recent memory it was nice to feel the warm, massaging sand beneath my feet that were craving some contact with nature.
Down the beach I spied something odd that spurred me on to walk nearly the full length of the beach. What was it? With the darkening clouds as I walked closer and the emptiness of the beach I felt trepidation with each step yet felt compelled to continue on. Seeing something oddly placed in nature makes one think of things like alien pods. There once were sightings further down the coast. Or perhaps I would get to a large shell that would have a large flying lobster jump out at me. I didn’t know what it could be. Onward I went only to find that it was a large plastic container. Probably something from a boat that holds their catch. Yet the incongruity mixed with the dark cloud sky still scared me. Nature is nurturing but signs of man once again cause me fear. It was a beautiful beach and at the end by the parking lot once again I only saw women. Men seemed to be out fishing. This was similar to my Gaspereau experience. On the way out I saw beautiful irises in the boggish water.
Finding a beautiful empty beach in Nova Scotia seems to happen often.
After the beach and before Liverpool we made our way to Mill Village which is a small place situated on a lively river. The main draw seems to be the general store and restaurant. It was quite busy and we just had tea and a cookie but the food looked good and people seemed to be happy with it. I plan to come back. It is a lovely spot on a rolling river near a bridge. One time in the past I took a long road in, next to the river which was nice but time consuming. This time I took a shorter route coming across the highway directly from the Voglers Cove road. They had the panninis that looked good and came with some sweet potato fries. I heard someone order cheesecake. The washroom came with a view of the river though I don’t think anyone could see me from across the river. It would have been only a side view. I do love a washroom with a view.
That would be a theme on this trip. For lunch I went to Lane’s Privateer Inn which was my usual stop in Liverpool. I split a wrap once again but had the chowder which had a tang and very small bits of seafood mixed in with potatoes. Some are creamy and you can really sink into lobster or shrimp or scallops. I’m not sure what was in this but it was tasty enough. I earned my first stamp in my Chowder Trail passport. For the first time I noticed that besides the chairs and couches there are also pews here. I asked a server and she said that they came from a church in New Brunswick that was being demolished.
The same happened when I purchased some ale at the Hell Bay Brewing Co. I got a stamp on the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail Passport. On both passports you only need three stamps for a chance at winning something.
I had consumed their cream ale in a pub previously(review upcoming) so I got the English ale which had a craft brew bite that I’m not used to. It reminded me of Propeller Ale. I tend to prefer Garrison. Still anything is nice once and it was not too bad for this light beer drinker. After a few sips I warmed up to it like you would to a person who seems obnoxious at first but becomes better after some banter or is it just be the brew’s effects that make that person seem more palatable? Yes there were notes of citrus too. That bitterness that masquerades as almost sweetness.
After more music at Privateer Days and walk through a moveable museum of Canada’s involvement in development around the world I went to see old pictures of the city at the Astor Theatre Building. There are many nice houses and buildings from their former rich times as privateers or even rum runners. Times can change places from rich to poor and back again. Many things that were made or done there are now obsolete or done elsewhere. There are interesting museums and old homes here. Again I found a windowed washroom. This time I think I must have flashed the building across the street. Well they wouldn’t know who it was if so. It is interesting to have washrooms with a view I must say, even if that view is of you.
Driving back I came into the sun and the light again. I had left the sunny county for the cloudy one but it was a fun and enlightening trip nonetheless. One day I will hit the beaches of that area with the sun shining upon me, I’m sure. I’ve been there before when the cold downer fog has lifted and everything changed The light shone upon me and I almost felt like it happened just because I arrived. Other times rain in other places will hold off until I get home It’s part of the challenge and game here. At the end of June you will see the roadside garnished with lupins in purple, pink and off white. They are the best roadside garden of all that will come. It is early days and there are more good things to come. The lupins herald the beginning of the good. Fruit and vegetables, plants and festivals, they will all come on schedule though I still have the memory of the worst winter ever in my mind and I still can’t believe things have come up mostly on time.
Meanwhile cloudy days tend to make for better pictures. I met some cute and friendly people and besides the time warp of seeing pet rocks and old records’ I even saw a woman in an aging poorly lit supermarket with curlers in her hair. You don’t see that every day. Another had a scarf pinned on like you do when you haven’t washed your hair in a while. A trip can take you to many places all at once if you just pay attention.