Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.10.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Oh, those rainy days of summer

One thing I learned from my newspaper years is that nothing changes the weather more quickly than writing about it. Publish a story entitled "Farmers crying like little girls over worst drought conditions in, like, forever," and it will start raining for five days straight.

Mine was a weekly newspaper, so there were six long days for people to see it on the newsstand and think, "Boy, did he get that wrong."

Call it a gift.

So here goes:

As I write this, we can expect more rainy days in the week ahead. Even the Internet forecasts seem to have lost hope.

In the long term they may announce "sun," but as those days approach, they hedge their bets: "sun with clouds," becomes "partly cloudy," then "it's starting to look iffy," followed by "I hope you weren't planning a wedding."

The weather forecasts should all just read "Sorry."

Under these conditions when your house is filled with kids and guests, you need to rely on your wits and cunning to keep everyone entertained while remaining sane. Booze helps.

Last week, my parents were visiting. We killed some of the rain time doing the tourist thing. In Stanstead, we visited the new Granite Museum, the Colby-Curtis Museum and the lavender farm interpretation centre. I've read a lot of panels in the last week or so.

We also ate. And when we had finished eating, we ate some more.

But there is only so much touristing and eating you can do. Eventually, you end up back at home, staring out at the rain and thinking, "Okay, now what do we do?"

At one point, I found myself sitting around the kitchen table with my mother and my eldest trying all the colours in a new box of Crayolas (64 crayons with built-in sharpener!). Then we sorted them according to shade.

At this point, standards slacken. For instance, early in the spring when the kids wanted to run around in the rain, the answer would have been "No way. You'll catch a cold." Now the answer is, "Only if you stay out for at least half an hour."

When I was little, my parents brought along a book to the cottage called Things To Do On a Rainy Day. The only activity I recall is this: Link your hands in front of you and step over your hands. Then, with your hands linked behind your back, step back over.

This must have struck me as an extraordinarily acrobatic feat. Otherwise why would I remember it? And can I still do it?

If I proposed this to my own children, they would give me "the look."

Throwing the kids in front of a DVD is out of the question because, well, grandparents are here and we have to impress them with our parenting skills (i.e. deceive them).

And so we turn to that rainy day standard, the board game.

Board games were invented specifically to pass time on rainy days and long evenings. In fact, they were probably all invented by people with small children and houseguests.

Unfortunately, most games involve taking turns, which means waiting. And waiting is an opportunity for hijinks and monkeyshines, not to mention tomfoolery.

In our house, game-playing follows an arc of hysteria. It starts out calm enough but soon the volume is rising. Before you know it someone has stolen someone else's money and someone else won't stop talking in a high-pitched Speedy Gonzalez voice. Stern warnings to settle down and threats of bedtime (generally ineffective at 4 p.m.) go unheeded.

Eventually, we reach the peak of the arc and someone snaps (yes, of course it's me).

"That's it! If I hear one more burp this game is over!"

Finally, the game ends, sometimes in tears. And yet, someone, oblivious to my furrowed brow and trembling hands, will ask, "Can we play again?"


So now what do we do?