An encounter with Catherine Raven -
Not Exactly Normal
My friends have known for some time that I am not exactly normal. That is to say, I have not followed a traditional career path of someone who went to primary school in a small town in southwestern Ontario in the 1950s. My parent’s neighbours eventually got used to Mounties at their door asking questions as security checks were carried out for working for a Cabinet minister or crisscrossing the country with visiting members of the Royal Family or the Pope. My latest venture however, has caught them by surprise. Now my conversation is sprinkled with the word submarine and this can make casual meetings go off the rails in a flash.
It Just Slips Out
“I’m sorry”, they say laughing, and “I thought you said you were working on a submarine”. “I did,” I reply.
For a moment there is an embarrassing silence and a lot of eye shifting while they try to decide if I have taken a job in a sandwich shop or just taken leave of my senses. I look them straight in the eye and, without saying a word, confirm their worst fears - she does have a submarine and this is not going to be a short conversation if I can’t come up with a doctor’s appointment or other pressing engagement pronto.
I should hasten to add I don’t personally own a submarine but after putting thousands of hours into it it certainly feels like mine. Nevertheless, it is a real Cold War Oberon Class diesel electric submarine and it is owned by the Elgin Military Museum where I am jack of all trades volunteer, researcher, the webmaster and occasional tour guide.
The Jack of All Trades part!
Conversation is Not Getting any Shorter
Appears to be a Need
I suppose I should be happy to learn that there is indeed a need for a naval museum in the heart of the country since some people have no problem envisioning driving a submarine the length of a football field and five storeys high down the highway from Halifax, Nova Scotia to St. Thomas, Ontario. Nevertheless, I am doing my best to keep the conversation short so I just tell them we brought her in by floating drydock to Hamilton and then a barge to Port Burwell on Lake Erie near St. Thomas and leave out the part about having to find someone to invent the drydock first. I can see that the technicalities of finding a place to put something that weighs 2,800,000 pounds or that it took almost three days to move her 500 metres from the barge to the site are probably best left out too. That’s what websites are for. I hope you enjoy this one.