When it rains, it pours. Cape Breton gave us a week or so of decent weather — that is, some clouds, some rain, or some wind, but not all at once — but apres ca, le deluge. For a week now, it’s been unrelenting, and the damp has dampened the excitement of our homecoming.
Weather warnings have begun to pop up online, not using the word “flood” just yet, but certainly psyching us up for it. No surprise to anyone; vast swaths of Quebec and B.C. are currently underwater, and last October floods here in Sydney incurred $3 million dollars of property damage, including many houses that had to be condemned. If Capers were a more religious (or industrious) folk, we’d be working on an ark.
We were in France during that cascade (Note: Pure luck that we stayed dry on our side of the pond, since the Seine flooded her banks the year before). Our Sydney home was being sat by friends, and they reported to us via email: no serious damage. The basement was a wading pool, but that’s nearly universal in Cape Breton, a land where one hundred thousand sump pumps chug and cough in unison, trying to expel groundwater before it seeps into one hundred thousand cellars — all in vain. There are only so many other places all that wet can go.
By the time we were preparing to come home, a new problem had sprung: leaks in the kitchen ceiling, likely a result from a faulty roof seal which the inspector had noted back when we bought the house five years ago, but which we’d ignored, of course. By the time we returned, paint had begun peeling from several spots around the ceiling. I called a contractor while S. hastened to relocate her inherited collection of crystal, lest the ceiling fall at any moment.
I will save my rant about contractors for another post; suffice it to say, it took three calls and one no-show before I finally had buddy on my doorstep. “We’re pretty swamped right now,” He said, unconscious of the wordplay, “But I hate to see anybody leakin’. I’ll get right back to youse next week.” We’ll be here, buckets in hand, holding our collective breath.
A parallel flood in our lives has consisted of resettlement errands — all the niggling details of daily life that must be reinstated when one returns from a year abroad. Some tasks are simple, if irritating — get insurance changed back, get cell phones reacquainted with Canadian carriers — and I can take some pleasure in the fact that all these transactions can now unfold in English. Other stuff is tougher, or more costly. My car, for instance: after sitting idle through a brutal Cape Breton winter, its brakes and belts and calipers were all worn down to the point where repair costs would exceed what most locals would pay for a whole new (ie. used) car.
I signed off on the repairs, but I felt an added layer of irritation, or possibly defeat. For eight months, we got along swimmingly without a vehicle, and I felt like I was doing a solid both to the planet and to my own health. But that was in Lille, a city with a comprehensive transit system — day and night buses, metros, trams, and even streetside bicycle dispensers. CBRM is geographically spread out — the university where we work is on a highway, halfway between two townships — and its bus lines are underfunded, poorly designed, and so outdated that an American graphic designer recently took pity on us and revamped our transit maps for free.
The point is: on a wet, wet island with nary a bus in sight, of course I’ll revert to driving. And if I drive to the university (15 minutes), I’ll probably drive to the mall (10 mins), and the comics shop (5 mins), and the grocery store (2 mins)…and in no time, the habits I acquired in France will be unlearned, and I’ll be back to being part of the problem.
The time in Lille now feels like a dreamline pocket of a world on its way out. Imagine: we experienced four seasons of three months each, with no natural disasters! And we walked, or bused, or very rarely Ubered, our way through it all. Now we’re home, where every year the rain and snow increases, sending us rushing to our cars and thermostats, driving the climate up another tenth of a degree, sending more storms the following year.
Can you tell the grim weather has also affected my mood? When it rains, it pours.