Viking Ship of 2018

My friends and I got together to build a boat the other day. We build one at the end of the year to fill up with memories and put out to sea in a Viking burial ceremony on New Year’s Eve. In past years the boat was made of cardboard and papier-mâché. It’s lots of fun to be a grown adult playing with papier-mâché, cardboard and fingerpaints.

Kahla closing up the bow

This year, I had a business refurbishing and flipping vintage furniture. Someone gave me a cherry and mahogany dresser to refurbish, but I wasn’t able to do much with it. Soon after I acquired it, I moved into a new place where I didn’t have any room to work on furniture. It stood in my dad’s basement waiting for me to come deal with it, but I didn’t have time. Finally I kicked it to pieces and took the bigger pieces to my friend’s house to use as kindling in their fireplace, and kept the finer pieces of mahogany, planning to sell them online.

The day of the boat-building, they were still in the trunk of my car as I ran around town trying to find big enough chunks of cardboard. Victoria has become very environmentally friendly lately – all the car dealerships, for example, get their parts in metal cages instead of cardboard boxes now. Good for them! Sucked for me though.

After a while it occurred to me that you can build a boat out of wood. The result was the finest Viking burial ship we’ve ever had. It might even float on its own this year!

Painting the flag

The idea of the boat is to fill it with whatever remnants of the year need to be burned, forgotten, and left in the past. Kahla wrote her stuff on paper and crumpled it up to throw in the boat. “Forgetting self-care,” she said.

“Taking on other people’s stress,” I added.

“Having to be productive all the time,” she said.

“The John A. MacDonald statue,” I said. “Actually, that’s the name of the boat.”

The John A. MacDonald statue used to stand on the steps of City Hall. The first Prime Minister of Canada, his home riding was Victoria, even though he never actually came to town while he was in office. He also accepted bribes from companies trying to get the contract to build out the CPR and participated in the founding of the residential school system. Here are ten standout quotes from John A. MacDonald in case you had any doubt about his relationship with the First Nations.

Guess this year it's a pirate ship

I never thought about the guy much before this year. In school I was taught that he was the founder of Canada, but they left out the other information.

First Nations elders in Victoria asked that the statue be removed as part of Victoria’s Truth and Reconciliation program. After a year of meetings and deliberations, it came down right at the beginning of municipal election season. That meant that for the entire election cycle, I, Lisa Helps’ volunteer coordinator in charge of canvassing the entire City of Victoria, got to hear thinly-veiled racist nonsense about that stupid statue every single night.

Many of the people who complained about it assured me that Lisa had lost the election with that blunder, but they were very wrong. We on her campaign team worried, but remained faithful that it was the right thing to do. We occasionally heard from children of residential school survivors as well, asking us to thank Lisa for doing it.

Gold lettering is classy, right? Name of the boat painted on the back.

We won the election by a lot. That statue didn’t do us any harm at all and I learned a lesson. Do the right thing – it might turn out okay, and the victory will be sweeter.

Anyway, the boat is named Sir John A. MacDonald and we’re going to set it on fire on New Year’s Eve.

Finished and drying

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Shannon Graham

Shannon has been writing brief essays and occasional how-to articles at Rocketships, Unaffiliated (.ca) whenever inspiration strikes, since 2012. She is interested in your opinion.