Conservative in habits and frugal, she saves leftover food, no matter how small the portion..


If you ring Central Casting and ask for a typical Canadian grandmother, they might send you Eleanor MacMillan. She ticks all the boxes – five feet one, bifocals, faded hair, Scottish descent, born around the same time as Queen Elizabeth. The widow of a noted orthopaedic surgeon, she shuttles between Ancaster, near Toronto, and the beautiful Muskoka Lakes.

Conservative in habits and frugal, she saves leftover food, no matter how small the portion, until it goes bad. She seems to be building a strategic stockpile of chairs. She’s careful with people too, sizing them up before giving them her trust. But boy, does she travel. She’s got thousands of snaps from her bus trips through places such as Iran, Mali and Burma. She’s a former biologist and happy to show her grandkids how to catch a snake. She’s also swift on the freeway – nobody dares to tell her to slow down.

What else? Oh yes, she hangs out with Rastafarians.

You see, Eleanor bridges the worlds of Ancaster and the timeless former smugglers’ island of Carriacou in the West Indies. Each winter she flies to Barbados, then climbs aboard an eight-seater Britten-Norman Islander, which hops down the Grenadines to Carriacou’s tiny airstrip, scattering grazing cattle. A minibus takes her cross-island in 20 minutes, through the main village of Hillsborough, where she waves to her old friends, while studiously avoiding contact with the local thief. Her destination is an isolated cottage up a deeply rutted track, where iguanas climb the trees, a donkey brays and the Caribbean shimmers beyond an overgrown yard. It’s three miles back to Hillsborough, but only a few minutes walk to Bogles, a tiny village of shacks, several inhabited by dreadlocked, bleary-eyed Rastas. They grow vegetables, keep chickens and goats ... and smoke ganja.

Everyone in Bogles knows Eleanor and many of the locals have been visiting her for years. One of them is Levis Thomas, a fierce-looking teenager with mounds of dreadlocks and a middleweight boxer’s physique, yet the gentlest soul you could ever meet. He used to sit on Eleanor’s sofa for hours, fascinated by the pictures in her back issues of Canadian Living.

The photos made Levi want to visit Canada. He stayed with relatives and worked hard at two kitchen jobs. The money was good, and when his tourist visa expired, he borrowed his cousin’s ID. One day the police came looking for the cousin, figured Levi wasn’t their man, but charged him with overstaying. A 30-day term in Toronto’s violent Don Prison stretched to six month after the police lost his passport. They couldn’t deport him without one, yet wouldn’t release him. No charges. No legal representation.

Eleanor got wind of Levi’s predicament. She went into battle. She got nowhere with uninterested officials, but managed eventually to reach the archdiocese in Grenada. A sympathetic priest found Levi’s birth certificate and faxed it to Canada. Levi was deported a few days later – but you wonder how long he might have languished in jail if Eleanor had not taken action.

Can you imagine an Aussie backpacker falling into a similar bureaucratic black hole for that offence? The world can be terribly unfair, marred by our differences and divisions. When alien worlds collide, sometimes the only hope for justice is the random relationships, spanning the divides, made by superconnectors. No age or other qualification is necessary. There is no nobler calling, nor, ultimately, a more rewarding one.

Isn’t it time you became a superconnector?


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