For grimness, there can’t be anything grimmer than the town of Chamberlain, at the turnoff from Highway 11 to Highway 2. A place so utterly uncompelling that I thought they might be kidding, but they weren’t. Only two businesses were open on the Sunday afternoon I passed through, in search of coffee and mineral water and a gluten free power bar. One was a restaurant that made outrageous claims, but I was too shy to slow to read them because out front stood a man who could only be described as the quintessential yokel. He really was wearing suspenders over a plaid shirt, baggy jeans and a battered straw cowboy hat. He appeared to be either guarding the entrance or watching the traffic or possibly both. I opted instead for the Esso convenience store that like so many establishments in Saskatchewan engulfs the customer in the sour waft of yeasty Subway bread dough. In this Esso, both staff and customers were Asian, and once again I was reminded that in Saskatchewan, if you want sparkling water you have to go to a supermarket. I settled for a cup of tea, and outside, noticed that underneath my rented car in the Esso parking lot was a splat of brightly coloured puke. And oh the unprepossessingness. Saskatchewan has such a lovely way of refusing to pretty itself up: the rumbling semis idling near the tracks and the crumbling grain elevator; the highway running straight through town, and opposite the tracks a row of businesses, paint-peeling derelict buildings next to luridly painted shops. The census tells me that the current population of the village is 108, down from 116. The come-on from TJ’s restaurant so absurdly off putting that I had to go back and snap a photo. When I got home and onto Google, I saw that I am not the only one who found these strange black red eyed safety vested figures both repellent and fascinating.