It’s the 26th May Gooners, a day to celebrate

May 26, 2015

1989. I was at my peak. A season ticket holder on The North Bank, and I hadn’t missed a home game. Two more left at Highbury to Derby and Wimbledon, and we can wrap it up. We blew it, then watched in horror on the Tuesday as Liverpool put five past West Ham, leaving us having to win by two clear goals at Anfield.

“I remember I was at the Football Writers’ dinner when Liverpool played West Ham,” recalls Smith. “They kept scoring, two, three, four… and we kept saying, ‘How many have we got to beat them by now?’”

Michael Thomas was equally confused. “Then George came over, messing around, punching me in the arm, saying, ‘Two-nil? Not a problem!’”

Over the past five years we’ve had great posts celebrating this anniversary, we have two bloggers – MickyDidIt89 and 26may1989 – that remind us every day that when it was up for grabs, the Arsenal team of 1989 grabbed it.

This is Big Raddy’s story of arguably the Greatest Day in Arsenal’s history.

May 26 1989, a day never to be forgotten in Gooner history, but also a preface to the modern Arsenal. Here is my story of the evening and why I think it changed the face of our fabulous club.

The run up to the game is embedded in the history books, but no-one can effectively describe the disbelief and despair that echoed around Highbury following the 2-2 home draw to Wimbledon. We had a 12 point lead over Liverpool at Xmas and had seen it whittled away to being 3 points behind. We had thrown away 5 home points in two games against poor opposition. We had choked. Goodness knows the furore had there been blogs in those days – Samaritans would have been busy!

The drudge home after the Dons game was very long. I gave little hope for our chances at Anfield and didn’t even try to get a ticket, but approaching the game I dug deep, sought some “mental strength,” found some fighting spirit.

It should be noted that the game was on a Friday night…. unheard of in those days and rare now.

My wife, thinking that football was a Saturday sport, had booked us to go to a dinner party at her new Boss´s (let’s call him Rupert) flat in the centre of Hampstead. She worked in the media business, and all the guests were from Saatchi & Saatchi.  I told her that I couldn’t attend unless I could watch the game through dinner, her response was to tell me to call Rupert. And here we come to the huge social change that came about that night, and in my opinion changed the face of football forever.

This was the season of Hillsborough, the reputation of English football fans was at an all-time low. If you liked football you were either violent or ignorant and uncultured. Football was for Yobs. Rupert, being cultured and polite, was delighted to hear from me and said that as a guest of course I could watch the game, but ….. I would have to sit at the table with the sound off and participate in the conversation.

We arrived and were shown into a beautiful dining room with a long table and I was sat at the end with a separate table for my 14″ TV. I felt humiliated and less-than, however my addiction came first and I was satisfied. The host had caterers to do the food and serve the wine allowing him to concentrate on his guests. Needless to say., I was at the opposite end of the table to him, due to his assumption that my passion must mean I was incapable of enriching any intelligent conversation.

Seriously, to those youngsters who read this, football fans were viewed as stupid. There were no University courses in Sports Management, no Soccer Academies etc et

So, the first half comes and goes and I am getting tense. At half time people were very “nice” to me, commiserating as though I had lost a pet. Champagne was flowing around the table, some guests went to the toilet to “powder their nose” and I sat there non-communicative, wishing I could find somewhere dark to be alone.

Second half kicked off. Smudger scores. I jump up shouting; they look at me as though I have escaped from a Psychiatric Unit, BUT and here is the start of the change – they got caught up in my passion. Rupert asked me to turn the TV so he could see it. Questions were asked “Who is the tall bloke who keeps raising his arm?”, Why don’t they shoot more? ( ;-) )”, “Why , when Arsenal play in red & white are they playing in yellow and blue?” Needless to say, I was incapable of speech.

The Mickey T moment. Never ever to be forgotten. It replays in my mind in slow motion (as I am sure it does for you). The whole table went mental. Jumping in the air, hugging, back-slapping and shouting. My main recollection was thinking “Where is my coat, I have to get to Highbury…”. but Rupert and his friends were high on the game. They had really enjoyed watching a half of football. They connected! If Big Raddy  – a less thuggish man you could never meet – was a football fanatic, it couldn’t be just razorblade toting thugs that went to Highbury.

I am ashamed to say that I “liberated” a couple of bottles of bubbly, grabbed the wife, and scedaddled as fast as I could to N5. I was dropped off outside the Gunners Pub carrying the champagne which lasted about 4 minutes.  The Fever Pitch film got it right, there was an enormous street party, a feeling of camaraderie never repeated. The noise was deafening and I stood on the Marble steps until around 3 a.m. Even at that time the Holloway Road was awash with jubilant Gooners , sharing laughter and booze. Fantastic.

I met Rupert and a number of the fellow guests over the following seasons. All had bought season tickets at Highbury and were as knowledgeable and connected to the Arsenal as any Gooner. Football had become the Cocaine of the Masses!

This is what the Guardian write of the game and the social effect….

“Many cite the match as a pivotal turning point in English football. Writing in The Guardian, Jason Cowley notes how instead of rioting, as had occurred at Heysel with fatal consequences, Liverpool fans stayed on after the game and applauded Arsenal “as if they understood that we were at the start of something new; that there would be no returning to the ways of old”. Cowley describes the match as “the night football was reborn” and that the event “repaired the reputation of football”.

The match is not only seen as the starting point of a renaissance in English football, but also the moment where people started to see the untapped commercial potential of live football on television.”

“Good Old Arsenal We are proud to say that name”

Big Raddy’s story.


Diaby Day

May 24, 2015

End of a season. For some players this will be their final day at the finest ground in the universe, for others a glittering future awaits. I always hate the final day of the season, if we have not won the title it means my hopes fade and die – as far as I am concerned it is never over until the fat lady sings.

And the chubby lady’s voice is echoing all around Abou Diaby. I cannot recall a player who has had such a frustrating career. The man could have been the answer to all our midfield woes – tall, strong, pacy, and blessed with fast feet for a big man (I love a cliche´). Injury did for the poor fellow. Imagine how frustrated he must have been as season by season he worked his way back to the first team only to be knacked in the first game of his return. My sympathy for the loss of his Arsenal career is tempered by the many millions he will have earned sitting in the stands and lying on the treatment table. A story is so much better with a what might have been.

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This is not the place for a season review, we can leave that until after the big game next weekend, and it is with that in mind that we come to the selection of the team to play West Bromwich Albion.

Will Mr Wenger rotate the team? He surprised us all mid-week by playing the Crown Jewels (or The Holy Trinity as chas calls them). They have to be rested this afternoon. So should Per, Kos, Hector, Aaron, and OG. We have the squad…. Use them.

And what of WBA? Pulis has done a remarkable job – never liked the cut of his jib but credit where credit is due. Could Berahino be a summer signing at THOF? He has a touch of the IW8’s about him and I think if we can control what appears to be a massively inflated ego (see Raheem Sterling) he could do a job for us, especially if Theo leaves.

WBA are the usual Pulis team – hard working, organised, strong in defence and pacy on the counter – they are a decent team; mid-table decent.

Can we score? For a team with such a varied supply of attacking talent we have been toothless the last 4 games. This has to change and change fast. Not playing Theo mid-week was IMO a huge mistake because we seem to have lost the confidence and ability in front of goal  – Theo adds something different. What is the point of Bellerin crossing repeatedly into the box when all our players are dwarfed by defenders (apart from OG who has lost his mojo)?

There is the possibility we could ship 4 and MU could beat Hull by 3 so 3rd is not 100% guaranteed. Of course it is, that will never happen!

How would we feel if our players downed tools as Chelsea did last weekend? I would be hugely unhappy if any Arsenal player did not give 100% every time he stepped onto the field in the historic red and white; I expect nothing less than a sparkling display this afternoon.

Barca had a Xavi Day yesterday. We should have Diaby Day.

I am 72% confident

COYRRG

 


Walcott, Wilshere and Gibbs to start?

May 20, 2015

Must be time for a change of first eleven, Mr Wenger – the boys are looking jaded.

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The Crown Jewels of Alexis, Santi and Ozil could be given tickets to sit in the stands with TH14 and Bobby P – just to get some quality time with Arsenal Royalty – or perhaps they could take a tour of the ground with Charlie George :-)

This will allow JW and Theo some pitch time and stop them griping through the summer (hopefully). Kos is malade so either Chambers (remember him?) or The Archangel will start. Gibbs needs a kick about or he will also ask to leave citing a lack of opportunities in the run up to Euro 2016, as will Debuchy.

Aah, Debuchy – what an odd season for our punk right back; early promise, horrible injury, Chambers looking excellent in his position, then the astonishing development of Bellerin as Boosh gets close to fitness, a return to the first team but Hector is now so good Mathieu  cannot get a regular spot and is relegated to the bench. Sadly, he is knacked again so his time is best spent sunning himself in Dubai at Arsenal’s expense.  I doubt he will be happy about his first season at Arsenal.

Another needing games is Wojciech. Neither GK is good enough IMO but the Pole has been on the naughty step for too long and needs to be given a cuddle if he is to develop into the quality keeper I believe he can become.

Do you think Mr Wenger will make so many changes? Neither do I but I hope he does because this is why we have such an expensive and high quality squad.

Oh, and I would love to see Rosicky play tonight.

Who are we playing? I had to look it up and it appears we are playing Sunderland who seem to have got themselves into somewhat of a pickle. Good. Any club who spend millions and pin their hopes on an ageing Defoe deserve to go down (hope he doesn’t score tonight!). But IMO they are safe as Newcastle and Hull are both desperately trying to earn their season in the Championship.

Sunderland will defend in depth. Swansea’s win by resorting to bringing the entire South Wales contingent of buses to The Emirates was a bad, bad result for anyone who enjoys watching football. Even the Chavs play defensively when coming to Arsenal and so will every other team in the PL apart from the few who, like Arsenal, believe that football is an entertainment.

I detest this park the bus crap – what was the best game of the season – the one that had all the pundits raving about the quality of entertainment? Barca vs Bayern. Why? Because Guardiola had the nuts to send his team out to attack in the belief that is team could and should compete. Why can’t others do the same? How many of the teams who defend in depth at THOF get a result? Very few – so why not try and give some joy to the paying punter?

Rant over.

Sunderland need a point to guarantee safety, we need a point to ensure 3rd spot. A draw seems likely but thankfully Mr Wenger doesn’t work that way.

I am 63% confident.

COYRRG


Which Game Did You See?

May 18, 2015

Here are a few AAers’ comments………………….

Half-time expertise on AA

Big Raddy says:

Cazorla has been at the heart of the problem – his passing has been terrible.

But then so have most of the team as we have been comprehensively outplayed by an average MU. Coquille’s limitations are being cruelly exposed but he is not helped by Ramsey or Cazorla. The less said the better about Ozil

Back 4 doing OK under difficult circumstances as is OG but we have to do better second half.

Best AFC player is the 12th man – Away boys in fine voice.

fatgingergooner says:

Dreadful half.

75% pass completion (50% when in the final third!).

If we are playing Ramsey wide to help us keep possession better then it isn’t working. I would bring Cazorla off, put Ramsey central and bring a proper winger on. If also be tempted to put Wilshere on ASAP to give us some bite in midfield and help us move forward quicker.

Whatever we are doing so far is not working.

GoonerB says:

There is something wrong when we bring the ball forward through midfield. We too often seem to “miss the moment” as I would put it when we potentially have a dangerous attacking position we could exploit.

Personally I think this has been the case through this season even during our good run. Missing these moments is more obvious against better opposition as you don’t get so many of them as you do with lesser teams where I feel it can be disguised more.

It seems that so many of our midfielders seem to over-run the ball or hold it too long looking for an option and then lose possession. Either that or they stop and turn sideways or backwards losing the initiative in the attack. Personally I feel this is down to the limitations that Ramsey (not a winger) and Ollie bring due to their lack of pace. It worries me that Arsene seems to think this is a winning formation to move forward with. Maybe he doesn’t. I hope that is the case and the summer TW will see additions that show this.

Post match thoughts

Adrian says:

Look at how Ramsey started bossing the midfield in the last 20 minutes after Wenger moved him to central midfield. The sooner Wenger stops this playing midfielders on the wings nonsense the better. I don’t buy the “we have a fluid front four which rotates throughout the game” story, fluid is the last word I would describe our attacking play in the final third during the first hour or so.

Another thing. While Giroud and Coquelin both performed admirably so far this season, I think this game exploits their limitations. As much as I hate saying this, Giroud is not a clinical striker and In tough games against top four opposition like today you very rarely get more than one or two clear cut chances and you need to make the most out of it. Top strikers/poachers like Aguero/Benzema/Suarez etc would punish opposing teams the minute the opportunity presents itself and they can make something happen out of a half chance. Coquelin who has been great so far has also shown his weakness today which is a lack of of physical size and passing. He was tasked to bully/disrupt Fellaini but he ended up being the one on the receiving end.

Cazorla in particular had a poor game for his high standards recently, and once again Ozil goes missing in the big games (something really needs to be done about this.) And can we please see more of Walcott?

All in all, I guess I shouldn’t complain considering we got a frankly quite undeserved point (thank you lady luck) but I feel that Wenger still has quite a lot of work to do for us to challenge for the title next season.

LB says:

Interesting comment Adrian

Not sure why you “hate saying the Giroud isn’t a clinical striker”. He isn’t, simple as, however, we all know he does very well within his limitations but he is limited.

“Coquelin’s job was to bully Fellaini”, well yes, but give me the name of someone who has ever successfully done that? Le Coq did his job as well as anyone, if not better than most of our team in the first half.

Ramsey: In an ideal world, the Welshman would replace Coquelin and Walcott would play on the wing, the problem is that the defensive side of Ramsey’s game is still not good enough, hence the need to start with Coquelin and only later, when we go on the offensive as we did today, does Ramsey replaces him. This is not an ideal situation but had we started without Coquelin we could well have been three down by half time, think of the thrashings we got last season and ask why this isn’t happening this season.

On a side note I thought Wilshere was excellent when he came on.

stevepalmer1 says:

In my opinion we were rubbish in the first half, I would like to say slow build up play, but i can’t as we didn’t attack at all, our passing was horrendous United over powered us and we were truly squashed. I have had times where i thought we were playing badly, but in this instance we were just outplayed.

I felt we were extremely lucky not to be down more than the one goal. United pressed us pressurised us and overpowered us into submission. The players walked off at half time battered and bruised without a clue of how to change the flow of the tide.

Arsene Ii feel, is not the best tactician so I would assume he would have told them to carry on as the first half, as United would have expelled a lot of energy and chances will come.

Sadly United started much the same and so did we, We never had a shot at all for sixty minutes if you can call it that, but where Arsene was probably right, they did start to slow down and we actually started to get one or two passes together.

I believe the ref was a homer as he certainly never thought any of United blatant fouls was worth mentioning, as Arsenals attacks were broken down by unnecessary fouls, it took a while for us to mount ant kind of possession.

Arsenal it has to be said, cannot play against a side that pressurise every player, they give the ball away and shy away from the physicality. we relinquish possession and also makes players hold the ball too long. In today’s game, it was almost impossible to get the ball out of our own half.

Three quarters of the game had gone before we came to life, United having a breather and we strung a few passes together but all the time our focus was on alert for a breakaway so no flowing play, our equaliser came from ricocheted cross, just as well as we had nobody out there with any idea of where their goal was.

Both sides settled for a draw after that, United was tired and Arsenal players minds were blank. Shared points was always better than a loss, but a game like this shows that Arsenal still need a lot of building. Money will definitely need to be spent, because what we have is just cutting the mustard.

Our wings are empty, our forwards are clueless our keeper is not top notch, and the rest of them could be easily replaced by better, Yes indeed our last two games have been pitiful, a weak united with a weaker Arsenal.

Conclusion

So which game did you see?

Was it classical ‘rope-a-dopeing’, allowing United to run themselves into the ground and then pick them off in the last third of the game?

Would we have scored without Van Gaal’s fantastic substitution bringing Blackett on?

Do we all simply respond to the final result? Just imagine the howlings of doom this morning if it had stayed at 1-0.

Ratings

First Half

Ospina – 4

Bellerin – 5

Koscielny – 6

Mertesacker–6

Monreal – 5

Coquelin – 6

Cazorla – 4

Ozil – 4

Ramsey  – 4

Sanchez – 4

Giroud – 4

Second Half

Ospina – 4

Bellerin – 6

Koscielny – 8

Mertesacker–8

Monreal – 6

Coquelin – 6

Cazorla – 5

Ozil – 5

Ramsey  – 8

Sanchez – 5

Giroud – 6

Wilshere – 8

Walcott – 6

Cobbled together by chas


Another 1- 0 to The Arsenal?

May 17, 2015

Can we continue the winning run at OT?  Though we are unbeaten at the Manchester Main Library in 2015 the portents are mixed.

The nine years without the glory of winning of both silverware and at what is the PL’s most prestigious and largest ground has finally been resigned to history; can Arsenal win both the FAC and at OT twice in a year? Why not?

Firstly, we have to re-discover the scoring form of earlier in the year and Giroud in particular could …..

I had better stop this now. Quite honestly I am not in possession of the facts nor the passion to write about this afternoon’s game in any depth – you will have to get the runners and riders elsewhere, instead let us look back in time (it is almost always the best place).

Weds May 8th 2002.  Jubilee year. We went up to the Toilet in fine form and the previous weekend had won the FA Cup at Cardiff thanks to goals from Ray and Freddie. The team was without the injured Pires, Adams and TH14 but was so good that Dennis was on the bench for this important fixture!

United were Champions and hurting. This was the team of Beckham, Van Nistelroy, Roy Keane, Scholes,the Neville Brothers and Laurent Blanc. They needed the points to ensure CL qualification and above all, Ferguson hated the idea of his nemesis Mr Wenger winning the title at his “fortress”.

These were the years of  the bitter rivalry between the Professor and the Rednosed Glaswegian. a time when on-field battles were a regular occurrence (remember the docked points?), the PV4/Keane feud, the heinous Neville assaults on our fleet-footed marvels, the Keown/Nistleroy contretemps was just a year away. It was the biggest fixture of the season and although I couldn’t attend I was excited with a serious E.

We needed just a point to win the title but from the off we attacked. Kanu passed to Wiltord who hit Blanc with a stinger which went for a corner. Freddie buzzed around causing havoc. Scholes picked up his customary yellow for a dreadful tackle on Edu (he shouldn’t have left AFC so early), Neville and Keane followed him into the book as MU realised they couldn’t compete trying to play football (expect the same today). Then on the hour Ray sent Freddie clear, his shot hit Barthez and rebounded to Sylvian who slotted it home. Cue bedlam in the away end. Our solid defence saw out the game without further trouble.

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We had won the title at our most hated rivals (OK, I know we also won the League at WHL – but give me some artistic licence!) and not just won the Premiership but the Double as well.

Happy Days.

There is no reason why we cannot win at OT this afternoon, MU will surely have to attack at home and the game should be a cracker (unlike Swansea).  We need to find a way past the wonderful De Gea which is not easy but can be done. OG has to occupy the CB’s and create space for our little fellows, the defence has to be resolute with Le Coq vital insurance as Ramsey/Wilshire venture forward.

I am 50% confident

COYRRG

 


Is Olivier Giroud just too handsome for his own good?

May 15, 2015

Whilst listening to Football Weekly from Monday the discussion turned to whether players with distinct features stand out more and whether that makes us reflect better on them because they were more memorable. The general consensus was that if you stand out from average in appearance whether through haircut (Chamakh, David Luiz), or boot choice (Bendtner pink boots) or hair colour (Ginger, Blond etc) then you will be judged in harsher terms. If Luiz had a short back and sides he would just be an average footballer, but as he is begging to be noticed he attracts rather more attention and it ranges from “he is superb” to “he is a liability”. Compare to say Phil Jones, less talented but as a player who fell out of the ugly tree and got entangled with every ugly stick on the way down he doesn’t appear to be judged as harshly.

Naturally as any football fan does we start applying to our own team, Giroud sprang to mind instantly, he sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Let’s be honest if us blokes looked like him our wives and girlfriends would be very happy, unfortunately for them if we looked like him they wouldn’t be our wives and girlfriends.

Having watched some of the Champions League this week and a lot of Premier League football I am struck by how much criticism seems to come from the blogs and pundits as I see plenty of other players in this position who are as good or even worse than Ollie but don’t appear to come in for the same stick.

So is it just jealousy, Kane has had lots of plaudits as has Costa, both scoring many goals, but so has Giroud and where have his plaudits been? The boy is to handsome for his own good, I reckon for his own benefit he should get Koscielny or more likely Gabriel to give him a couple of headbutts in training to get his nose into a more Steve Bruce like shape, maybe then he will stop being judged on his looks and football and just his football.

Finally Henry weighed in, perhaps he is worried that he has been replaced in the hearts of Arsenal fans by a man who may not have va va voom but probably provides plenty of ba ba boom.

Gooner in Exile

Costa 1958 minutes 19 goals (103 minutes per goal)
Kane 2407 minutes 20 goals (120minutes per goal)
Giroud 1666 minutes 14 goals (119 minutes per goal)


An Arsenal fans adventures in Northern Ontario.

May 13, 2015

Here are some key facts about Ontario:

  • In summer, temperatures can soar above 30°C (86°F), while in winter they can drop below -40°C (-40°F)
  • Ontario is Canada’s second largest province, covering more than 1 million square kilometres (415,000 square miles) – an area larger than France and Spain combined. Ontario is bounded by Quebec to the east, Manitoba to the west, Hudson Bay and James Bay to the north, and the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes to the south.
  • Ontario is home to 2 time zones: the boundary line between the Central Time Zone and Eastern Time Zone is just west of Thunder Bay, running north from the United States border to Hudson Bay.
  • Ontario’s more than 250,000 lakes contain about one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. The Great Lakes include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
  • The combined shoreline of the Great Lakes is equal to about 45% of the earth’s circumference.
  • The 5 Great Lakes are the world’s biggest continuous body of fresh water.
  • The Great Lakes Basin covers an area of 750,000 square kilometres – this basin includes 8 US states, most of southern Ontario and extends into northern Ontario.
  • Ontario’s varied climate and geography support habitat for more than 3,600 species of plants, 154 species of fish, 50 species of amphibians and reptiles, 483 species of birds, and more than 81 species of mammals. In Ontario’s southernmost regions, you will find prickly pear cactus and sassafras trees, while polar bears roam our northern tundra.
  • Common fish in Ontario include yellow perch, bluegill, northern pike, salmon, walleye, brook trout, brown trout, speckled trout, lake trout and rainbow trout. The mammals that call Ontario home include beavers, black bears, muskrats, gray wolves, white-tailed deer and walrus. Familiar birds include blue jays, northern cardinals, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls and pileated woodpeckers. Look carefully and you might see some reptiles and amphibians, including eastern garter snakes, northern leopard frogs, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, midland painted turtles or one of 11 types of salamanders and newts.

Leaving England behind to move to Canada was not an easy choice but leaving my beloved Arsenal was far worse; but that’s another story. My wife and I docked in Quebec City on the first day of June after 8 glorious and somewhat riotous days abroad the Empress of Canada (yet another story). We had arranged to temporarily stay in Toronto with my sister Gloria and her husband Barry. Ontario’s 250,000 lakes and 100,000 miles of rivers created endless opportunities for Barry who was an avid outdoorsman and he was passionate about fresh water fishing while I’d never cast a line in my life – after all there weren’t too many fishing spots to find in Highbury.

A few weeks after our arrival Barry mentioned that he had saved up some vacation time and wanted to go on a canoe trip in Northern Ontario, he asked if I would like to accompany him on the trip and assured me that he was an experienced canoeist. I was somewhat worried as I was a poor swimmer but he showed me the maps of the planned route and assured me that he had selected calm rivers that had no rapids or stretches of white water – so I reluctantly agreed to go.  Over the next few weeks we put together the equipment and supplies that we would need for my first outdoors adventure.

Our only means of transport was Barry’s MG Coupe, the canoe was strapped onto the roof and our backpacks and minimal supplies were stuffed into the rear of the car which completely blocked the view out of the rear window. On our 1,000 kilometre journey up Route 101 to Groundhog River we got many strange sideways glances from other drivers. Arriving at our destination we simply drove the MG into the bushes and covered it with foliage – we were out in the middle of nowhere so it did not seem that illogical to Barry. We had to make several reconnoitring trips back and forth to find the best route down to the river and spot to launch from but finally we made our decision got all of our gear down to the river; once the canoe was loaded we set off on our journey into parts unknown.

It was now late afternoon and even though we were tired from the last part of our road journey we had made up our minds to camp on a certain loop in the river. An hour or so later we were approaching the spot where we had planned on camping when the sound of rushing water caught our attention, as we turned the next bend we were confronted by a very long stretch of fast moving white water. We made a valiant attempt to negotiate our way around the rocks but to our dismay the canoe tipped; we were in the water and our supplies were bobbing off down the river. Not being a strong swimmer I feared the worst but you can imagine my relief when I discovered that the water was only thigh deep.

Even though Barry had misjudged the “calmness” of the river he had been smart enough to insist on packing all of our supplies and provisions in air tight plastic bags – so we hoped that we would be able to recover them once we got ourselves together, however our birch-bark canoe was wedged between two very large rocks and it had a sizeable hole in the side.  Barry’s outdoors knowledge now came in very handy, he cut a strip of bark from a Balsam fir tree which he whittled into shape then used that plus the tree’s natural sap to patch up the hole; we then propped the canoe up get a good air flow and simply waited for the sap to harden and seal the hole.

I stayed with the canoe and lit a fire for our overnight camp while Barry who was big, strong and swam like a fish, set off down the river looking for our missing gear.  He returned about an hour later with the oar we were missing and one bag of supplies which he found snagged up at the side of the river. Fortunately the bag contained our fishing gear so we were able to catch some Pickerel (Walleye) which we cleaned and then cooked by skewering them on sticks and grilling them over our camp fire – they tasted absolutely delicious! The night was uneventful, other than the sound of wolves howling in the distance. Having no supplies we ate more fish for breakfast, it was to become our main food source.

The “Barry” patch had completely dried, no water was leaking into the canoe and it lasted for the entire trip. We didn’t want to risk the rapids again so we portaged around them and set off again once the river calmed down; it was to turn out to be a beautiful early morning row along a very calm river – we had no idea of the time as we had neglected to bring along a watch. Later in the day we found our other two bags of gear, snagged up at the riverside, so all was going well – until we saw moose grazing in the shallows just down the river, they are huge animals and a bull moose can stand 7 feet tall and weigh 900 lbs, so we made the only sensible choice we could and stopped right where we were until they had eaten their fill. We found a clearing and set up camp for the night, our “tent” was simply our canoe turned upside down and propped up with some sticks, Barry slept with his head at one end and GN5 at the other end, we had each purchased a US army surplus mummy type sleeping bag, which proved to be a very wise buy.

With our recovered bags we now had some provisions for a “slap up” meal – fresh walleye and dried veggies; we had taken along two small tin saucepans, one frying pan, and two knives and forks. Having no oil or grease we filled the frying pan with river water and poached the fish, we boiled the dried vegetables in a saucepan and in the second one we boiled water for our coffee. This was our diet until we ran out of vegetables and from then on we just ate whatever species of fish we caught – so we had to catch fish or go hungry!

Day 3 started off wet and windy which made for some very difficult canoeing; we passed under a railway bridge; the only means of transportation for hundreds of square miles was by rail, river or lake, there were no roads, we had noted on our maps that there was an abandoned gold mine near the bridge – so we decided to see if we could locate the mine.

We could not get up to ground level on the mine side of the river as it was a sheer rock face while the other side was an earth embankment. As we had canoed up we had heard a train so we felt safe in walking across the trestle bridge but to our horror when we were on the bridge we heard another train in the distance and had to get over to the other side in a real hurry, we stood at the side as the train passed and incredibly it slowed down and stopped. Shortly afterwards the engineer walked back, he had seen us and thought we were waiting for a ride, he explained that it was normal for them to pick up random people along the route. He inquired about our well being (most likely worried about our sanity); this was to be typical of the friendly, concerned manner of the Northern Ontario people that we met on the trip.

The train went on its way, we took a compass setting and trekked off in the direction of the Joburg mine, we found an old overgrown trail which could only have been created by the constant flow of people between the railway line and the mine so off we went down the trail. Reality and fear crept in when we saw bear paw prints in the muddy trail and then moose prints so we quickly turned tail and headed back to the bridge as our Bowie knives would have been no defence at all. Our choices left us in a real quandary – bears, moose behind or the bridge ahead, obviously we choose the bridge and lived to tell that tale – dozens, maybe hundreds of times.

This is only up to day 3 of a 30 plus day trip – but I’ll stop right there for now and test your interest for more tales.

Barry Stuart Harvey passed away December17th 2014 but his stories will live on……

RIP my good friend.

Written by GunnerN5

 

 

 

GunnerN5

 


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