Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
CBC logo
Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 09.30.04
Quebec City


Antigua, Moi, and Northern Dancer

It pays to think ahead.

Just this week, in anticipation of $75-a-barrel oil, I went to my friendly banker to establish a line of credit.

I reckon about $20,000will get me to and from work this year.

I'll let next year take care of itself.

All kidding aside, it's becoming harder and harder to run an automobile in this day and age.

My last car cost me a little over $20,000.

Admittedly, it was a year-old and the salesman gave me a great deal -- don't they always.

My last house, on the other hand, cost me just $12,500 and came with two acres of land and a garage.

Even thirty years ago that was cheap.

But it's not just the gasoline.

Replacing my muffler system the mechanic tells me will cost about the same as a 1965 Austin 1100, my first car.

Changing the oil and filter runs nearly a hundred bucks and the cost of four snow tires would feed a family of five for a couple of months.

The last time I had really cheap transportation was in 1967.

I was living in Antigua in what was then known as the British West Indies.

And since I didn't have access to a car and there was only one, highly unreliable bus, I bought a donkey for $2.50 BWI (beewee), the local currency.

I christened it Northern Dancer and calculated it would get me around the parish quite nicely.

I also made two mistakes.

Firstly, Northern Dancer, despite the name, was a female. And in the custom of the day men did not ride female donkeys, the fact of which I was completely unaware.

The second problem came when I actually mounted the beast.

Already smarting from the giggles of the assembled village children over the sex of my trusty steed, I was further disconcerted when - in my best lone ranger style - I leapt onto her back.

Despite what I thought was a suitable mounting style the crowd of children was convulsed with laughter.

You see, men in Antigua did not ride astride, they rode side saddle with one foot tucked into the chain that hung upon the animal's neck.

Only women, I was assured, would ride in such an ungainly fashion.

It didn't matter. Northern Dancer served me well. Upkeep was minimal and fuelling consisted of letting her graze around the church rectory where I lived.

Mind you, my ignorance of animal husbandry became legendary throughout St. Mary's parish and was further enhanced when I departed that marvelous little island some months later.

I sold Northern Dancer for the $2.50 that I had paid.

No depreciation. I chuckled until I was told - fool that I was - that I could have got $3 for her since she was, to put it delicately, in a family way.

Which led me to wonder exactly what went on behind the rectory when I was at work.

But that's another story.