We are in Maine, in the far North-Eastern corner of the United States. It's a wild and wooly place, preferred for its summers and endured through its winter. We are staying with family friends in the small and charming port of North East Harbor, a fishing village that along with its neighbour Bar Harbor, also boasts some of the most powerful and blue-blooded of American families as its regular summer residents. Nelson Rockefeller was born here, which turned out to be a pretty good thing for Bar Harbour. John D. Rockefeller later gave away more than half his fortune and his family followed by donating hundreds of millions more which transformed America. John D. Rockefeller Jr. then donated about 1/3 of the land in Bar Harbor which is today Acadia National Park, which everyone here agrees was jolly nice of him indeed. Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts, Astors, and more recently, Martha Stewart have - and in most cases still have - summer homes here. And so it is that I find myself to be the only human being on Long Pond, at 6:30 on a July morning. Yes, I took the picture above and it's not from istockphoto. We had arrived the night before with Luke and Juliet, our hosts, at what is called the family's "camp". Now this is not a camp as most people think of it - a collection of tents that are home to an inordinate amount of bugs, and a nearby hole in the ground that everyone takes large doses of Immodium to ensure they don't have to visit. It is in fact a charming, rustic, three bedroom cabin on the shore of Long Pond, an immaculate body of freshwater some two miles inland from the coast. The deck hangs out over the water and steps lead down into the lapping shallows of the luke warm lake. The Camp is used as an adjunct to the house in Northeast Harbor, mainly for day trips, leisurely sploshing about and the odd boozy poker party. Dearly Beloved and I had accepted the urgings of our hosts to spend the night at the camp, so we had all set out in the late afternoon and enjoyed a jolly barbeque on the waters edge. On leaving us there, Juliet said "oh, and just so you know, there is a bat who lives inside and flies around a bit, but he wont bother you". Sure enough, not long after they departed and we settled down inside to read and watch the indigo dusk unfold outside, the bat came duly appeared and enthusiastically hoovered up any itinerant mosquitos that had managed to penetrate the defences. At this point Dearly Beloved, who had watched this performance with increasing alarm, promptly announced that she was heading for bed. As I watched the bat flit hither and thither, I reflected on what a very useful and considerate guest he was. He came out only at night, ate all the mosquitos in the house and managed to completely avoid bouncing off things or getting entangled in the houseguests, despite the fact that he was flying around the small space with the speed and dexterity of a Top Gun. I have never managed to get any of our houseguests to pull off such a feat. I decided that any resident bat of such talent deserved a name, and thus he was christened Roger the Bat of Long Pond (admittedly in somewhat Arthurian fashion). With that good deed checked off, I too headed for bed.
I arose at 6:00 AM and stood for a moment looking out at the sheet of glass that was the pond. In the face of such startling beauty there is nothing to say and only one thing to do. Within seconds I was in the canoe, taking the first strokes out into the pristine waters. It was breathtakingly beautiful, incredibly quiet and excitingly wobbly. I gained confidence and went some distance into the middle of the lake, where I paused to digitise the moment for posterity. I glid slowly over to an island and explored the shoreline, following a mother duck and her chicks for some way, before returning to the camp, my back sore from this un-natural exertion. I was met by Dearly Beloved, who had a concerned look on her face. "There is something on my computer" she said, as I clambered out of the canoe, wondering what sort of small furry animal would have the sheer cojones to make even a temporary home of the device. On inspection, I found that there was a small splodge of some description, that had dried and cracked. "Looks like make-up" I surmised. "Rubbish" said Dearly Beloved "it's bat shit". We went to and fro on this for a bit, but she could not be persuaded otherwise, even when I pointed out a similar mark on the underside of the laptop, a feat of bat-shittery that even a bat of Rogers' considerable dexterity would have had trouble executing.
Back in Northeast Harbor, at the house overlooking the bay, the bell on the buoy that designated the safe channel binged and bonged softly all day and all night. Now we call it a buoy (boy) and over here they call it a buoy (boo-ie) - which just goes to show that they never got the hang of British pronunciation. It always really annoys Americans when you ask them why they say buoyancy as we do and not boo-ie-ancy. It is such fun having dual citizenship. Another American love affair is with beans. We Brits really only go as far as Heinz in the bean department, but here in Northeast Harbor they are an art form. There is a barbeque and brewing establishment that has a particular baked bean recipe that has achieved cult status in our hosts family. Their beans are slow-cooked with molasses and herbs and spices, and then sliced sausage is added, along with jalapenos. Those are green Mexican chiles, for the uninituated. The result is actually pretty damn special, and puts any tin of Heinz beans fimly in the "shitty canned food that doesn't taste even remotely like it's supposed to" category.
So here we have idyllic ponds, beautiful harbors (or even harbours), fabulous beans, useful bats, mis-spelt buoys and an abundance of fabulous scenery. oh, and I almost forgot - lobster at $5 a pound. I am coming back.