As Laetitia walked toward the Emerald Victorian, the rhythm of the rain on her umbrella conjured a childhood memory of walking in the rain with her grandmother. She was too small to carry an umbrella herself, so they both huddled under the large black one her grandmother brought. They arrived at a large Victorian house and climbed the front porch steps. Sheltered by the porch roof, her grandmother shook out and put down the umbrella and then picked Laetitia up so she could reach the brass knocker.
They were greeted by an elderly woman, who led them into the parlor where a small table was set with tea and shortbread. A small teacup and saucer, each decorated with the image of a Scottish terrier, was set for Laetitia. Laetitia sipped her tea, mostly milk and sugar, as she listened to the ladies drone on about those dull things that adults usually talk about. The lady of the house spoke in an unfamiliar accent that Laetitia would now have recognized as Scottish, and when she noticed Laetitia looked bored, she asked if they would like some music by John McCormack. Laetitia had no idea who he was, but her grandmother nodded enthusiastically and said she loved Irish tenors. The woman walked over to a brown box with a horn sticking out of the top, wound a crank on the side, put a black disc on it, flipped a switch, and moved an arm to the outside edge of the disc. What emerged from the horn was the tinny-sounding voice of a man singing a maudlin love song. Each verse ended with, “And for bonnie Annie Laurie I’d lay me doun and dee.”
That memory was still on Laetitia’s mind when she emerged from the Emerald Victorian’s kitchen with a steaming cup of Sumatran dark roast and rummaged through a stack of CDs in the library. A disc called Scotland the Bravelisted Annie Laure among its contents. She started it playing and looked the song up online. As is often true of things written centuries ago, the origin of Annie Laurie is somewhat uncertain. The original poem is often attributed to William Douglas (1672–1748), a soldier in the Royal Scots Regiment who was romantically inclined toward Anna Laurie, a young lass from Maxwelton, near Dumfries. According to one legend, her father opposed their marriage because Douglas was a Jacobite (advocate of restoration of the Stuart monarchy). Later, both William Douglas and Anna Laurie married others. Laetitia had a passing thought that many of the most popular love poems and songs are about thwarted romances where the passionate enthusiasm of courtship is frozen in time and hasn’t yet become dulled by the realities of daily married life in the workaday world.
Enough of that. Laetitia had a trip to plan. Serendipity was such a common occurrence at the Emerald Victorian that Laetitia had come to expect it. So it was no surprise when Preeceville, the next town west of Sturgis, was located next to Annie Laurie Lake.
Laetitia and her group headed northwest from Sturgis, making a brief stop near Preeceville to view Chechow Church, a picturesque building representative of western Canada’s Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox heritage. A bit further on, they went hiking and wildlife watching. The group speculated that like Annie Laurie Lake was likely named by homesick immigrant Scots.
Late that afternoon they arrived at Kelvington, their evening’s destination. The town was named after Lord Kelvin, a Belfast native who distinguished himself as a scientist at the University of Glasgow. Among other accomplishments, he is credited with the formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics and for the establishment of the Kelvin temperature scale, which begins at absolute zero. It seemed to Laetitia somehow appropriate that Kelvin would be the namesake of a town whose average January temperature was 0° F (-18° C; 273° K). That thought provided the limerick of the day.
If you think that it simply sounds mean
That temperature, minus eighteen
Be like Kelvin, our hero
Count from absolute zero
A plus number seems less obscene.