Friday, 21 August 2015

Deja Vu

I come from a family who read a lot and I do too! The flagship outlet for Canada's prime chain of bookstores is just across the street from here so I drop in there quite frequently.

A month or two ago I went there looking for a new book to read and picked up "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Richard Flanagan   As this book was awarded the Man Booker Prize (which is Canada's premier award for fiction) and is a national bestseller as well - how could I go wrong with that purchase?

I did not err and - when I began to read it - I discovered a story that is set in parts of Australia where I lived for a few months many years ago - Tasmania and South Australia!

The story is about a few men and women who were living in Thailand during World War II where the men had been conscripted by the Japanese as slave labor to work on building a railroad. After that war ended they returned home and rural areas of both Tasmania and South Australia were where they located.

While working at that orchard I - and a few workmates - hiked over to Port Arthur a couple of times to visit the remnants of that prison (now an historic site) and the author of the book mentioned that place in passing.

I never stayed nor worked in South Australia but I did visit Adelaide on two or three occasions so while I am not familiar with the countryside that Mr. Flanagan mentions in his story - his references to the capital city I do remember. While traveling around Down Under I did encounter a couple of cyclones and - at least once - I could not leave where I was situated until the storm had passed.

Speaking only for myself, I do not know how accurate are my memories of places and events from 50 plus years ago. However, I kept a diary for many years and - lately - I have been rereading those notebooks which refreshed my memories.

In Tasmania I picked apples at an orchard located on the isthmus where the Port Arthur Historic Site is located. Most of the pickers were younger men around my age and we were very aware of the prison site and its significance so we hiked over to there a couple of times.

There is an old adage that states "One can never 'go back' " which is true but memories can carry one back to distant places and times.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Trip to Kamloops, B.C.

One of my brothers-in-law was from Saskatchewan and his siblings had migrated to Kamloops. Early in his marriage to my youngest sister - they decided to move there as well. They have two daughters who were born and raised there and they think that their 'Home Town' is paradise on earth.

15 years ago I met the man who was destined to be my spouse and - once we were married to each other - we went on visits to the homes of both of my sisters. Ric and I met each other here in Toronto and did some musing about the possibility of me moving to the San Francisco Bay area. That would have been easy if I were an American myself but I am not so Ric decided that I should move to Kamloops which - instead of being a 4 or 5 hour flight from Toronto - is only two shorter flights of 60 to 90 minutes each. Quicker and cheaper than traveling between Toronto and Kamloops and back!

My flight left Lester B. Pearson airport in northwest Toronto in mid morning. Not being flush with funds I opted for the least expensive way to travel out to the airport which is situated northwest of downtown. That meant that I had to get up out of bed at 3:00 AM and catch what we call 'the Blue Night Bus' which travels on the main east/west thoroughfare one block north of where I live and goes all of the way to the airport.

I was there in plenty of time for my flight so I went to the restaurant in the terminal for breakfast and then made my way to the boarding area for the flight. I knew the number of my seat but had no idea that it was on the largest commercial aircraft that I have ever seen (let alone flown on).

My seat was in the last of the three sections and right in the middle of the plane (there were ten seats across the airplane and I was five seats away from my favorite window seat - and an equal number from the other side). As I was unable to see outside, thank God I had a good book with me!

My disappointment at not having a window seat - which would have put an additional surcharge upon the cost of the ticket - was eased when I realized the 'perks' which came with this aircraft - on the back of the seat in front of me was a monitor which showed a map of the route and figures showing how many miles had been covered and how many miles that were still ahead - even to the last few miles right up until the aircraft touched down!

As the aircraft was so huge there were two aisles with seats on each side but it still took quite a while before we who were seated near the rear could get off.

In the Vancouver airport I looked for a restaurant (naturally, there were more than one) and then the gate for the little 'mountain hopper' (as I called it) up to Kamloops. Sea Island Airport is near the mouth of the Fraser River and the take off was out over the 'salt chuck' and then northwest up Howe Sound  and over Whistler to the upper Fraser River and on to Kamloops which is located where the North Thompson River joins with the Thompson and flows down to the Fraser.

That flight was short and comfortable and - when I got off the plane - I soon located my niece's husband and his son who were waiting for me. Both of my nieces live in the same apartment building as my kid sister. This was Saturday and - two days later - Ric flew in from San Francisco to join me. We had a couple of meals with my kid sister and - on Saturday evening - my niece's husband cooked a steak dinner feast which Ric and I, Nicholas (Nick), his grandmother (my youngest sister, Babs Gibson) and his Mom all enjoyed.

Nick was living with his maternal grandmother so he and I got to be with each other quite a bit - and I nearly bankrupted myself by paying for lunches, coffees and snacks but it was a good 'together time'.

On the Saturday evening Babs hosted a get together which included Nick's sister  - Leah Adams - and her new husband (Steve) who drove up from the Okanagan Valley which caused all of us to hold our breaths - a snowfall had been predicted but - thankfully - it did not materialize! Neither Rick nor I had met Steve before this and we liked him very much.

In his spare time Paul drove us around a fair bit which pleased me as Ric and I are contemplating a move to Kamloops at some time within the next few months.

After being there for a week to ten days it was time to leave. My 'mountain hopper' flight was to Calgary where I boarded another Air Canada airplane for the trip the rest of the way back to Toronto. The small aircraft do not fly very high over the mountains and I saw something which I found spectacular. There had been an avalanche on one of the mountains and I had a clear view of the peak and noticed where the snow had been before it slid down the slope.

The aircraft which flew from Calgary to Toronto was one of the regular sized one. While my seat was on the aisle, I still could see the terrain which we flew over to Pearson. We landed just at sunset so the remainder of the journey home was in the dark.

It was a good trip but with a 'downer' at the end. A large group of what appeared to be business people had been allowed to board the aircraft first. While their seats were towards the rear  of the 'plane they had placed their carry-on luggage in the overhead bins towards the front. Therefore - when I boarded - I had to go well back in the airplane before I found an empty bin in which to place my bag and my sweater jacket. Because of that I had some difficulty in retrieving my belongings when we landed at Pearson International. I did manage to retrieve my bag but was unable to locate the sweater jacket. Once home again a brief bout of influenza (plus being daunted by severely cold weather) delayed my trip out to Pearson International Airport and - by that time - all misplaced items had been sent on to Montreal and then sold or given away.

I was greatly dismayed by that!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Christmas 2014

The date - as I type this - is Tuesday, December 30 which indicates that the 'Christmas Season' is nearly over, For me it has been a busy - but interesting - time so I thought that I would share the events with you.

When I moved to Toronto in 1989 and located my new church home I met many people - most of whom I have remained friends with - and one of them is Frits Haselbarg. He is a Dutch immigrant to Canada who shares the same birth year as I but is six months the younger.

As he never applied for Canadian citizenship, he is forced to live in the most inexpensive residence as possible (I - and many other friends - as Canadians - are able to live in buildings which are more up scale and with the rent lowered due to 'rent-geared-to-income'). The lower rent areas are mainly found in the northwest area and that is where Frits lives. I knew that Christmas could be rough for him so I invited him to spend the holiday with me and partake of our mutual church activities. 

One of these is to attend the Christmas Eve service conducted by the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto in the 2800 seat Roy Thompson Hall downtown on King Street West. The church covered the cost of those tickets and we had lovely seats in  the mezzanine level and just above the left hand side of the stage. As usual, the service was truly wonderful. Also, one of the big 'perks' for me is to arrive early, go to the lounge reserved for the volunteers - Yes! I was a volunteer - and socialize with the many folk from the church whom we know.

                                            This was not from this year but a few years ago.

On Christmas Day, Frits and I went to MCCToronto for the congregational potluck. In order to reach there we walked over to the Bloor/Yonge Subway Station where there was a lineup at the ticket booth and no attendant inside. I was standing behind a middle aged woman who exclaimed, "It is just like waiting for Santa Claus!' If you have seen photos of me you would have noticed my grey/white beard so I responded by saying, "I am right behind you , Madam" She turned with a look of embarrassed shock while all of us waiting laughed out loud. Maybe that was rude on my part but I could not resist!

Usually the potlucks at the church are very delicious but not this one which was a disappointment for me.

My friend, Frits, is lame so I forewarned him that - from Victoria Park Station - we  would have a fifteen minute walk in order to reach the condominium building where my friend (Ian) lives. Frits used to be very hardy but now he is quite lame so he excused himself from accompanying me further.

Ian's parents immigrated from Great Britain to Canada when he was a boy and they settled in the British Properties area of West Vancouver.  Ian is a very proud Canadian but there are many facets of his life which are quite British. Christmas dinner at his condominium is but one of them! Also - when we are together - we talk and talk and talk while savouring the very British meal, His condominium is quite different from the apartment in which I live but I am always very comfortable in his home

After dinner we sat and talked (Ian is a teetotaler so there is never any alcohol which is fine with me!)

After the visit was the lengthy walk back to the subway station and the ride home to Bay Street.

Friday, 31 October 2014


It is now 9:45 PM on Friday, October 31, 2014. I live in an apartment building where there are very few children so - during the 18 years that I have lived here - I have never had a 'Treat or Trickster' come to my door. However - my mind is full of memories of when I was young when Alda and I (accompanied by Mom or Dad) went around the neighborhood wearing costumes and masks, approaching doors, and calling out 'Trick or Treat!' and hoping for yummy items to be placed in the sacks which we carried.

Mom always had a cache of 'Hallowe'en candies' to give to the children who came to our door so - naturally - we expected the same to be given to us at the doors which we approached. I have only a vague memory of Hallowe'en in Ruskin but I believe that we visited a few houses when we lived on River Road across from the Ruskin Public School.

When we moved to Dawes Hill in Coquitlam we found ourselves in a more populous neighborhood and - therefore - a bigger 'haul'. Also - I remember a situation where we children were actually 'two-faced' in the fact we were rather disdainful of the Dolbec family but - because Mme Dolbec always made incredible fudge - we made sure that we stopped there.

The sacks which we carried were pillow cases and we always returned home with a nice haul of sweets and fruit like apples. As that was in a mild, wet climate our costumes, masks and 'gooddies sack' were quite damp by the time that we made it back home.

I do not recall what the  costumes were (that we wore) but it was always something that Mom could put together at home. However, the masks came from one of the '5 and 10 cent' stores in New Westminster and - by the time we returned home - mine was always damp around my lips, smelled strongly of the material that had gone into the manufacture and - sometimes - the coloring in the design had leached and stained our faces. We did not have a shower in the house in those days so that meant a good scrubbing by Mom as each of us leaned over the kitchen sink.

Not all the goodies which we received were candies/sweets but did sometimes include other 'practical' items. This was nearing the end of World War II and some of the neighbors purchased 'tickets' which we could exchange for small toys or candies at the special UNICEF gathering at the arena in town. Of all of the neighbors which we had only one lady bought these 'tickets' which became her donation to our sacks instead of candies or fruit. As an adult I appreciate the need for supporting this charity but - as a child - I (and most of my buddies) felt cheated by finding them in the sack instead of candy, fruit or coins!  

As an adult I do not recall having attended a costume party of any sort - in honor of Hallowe'en - while still a child. I am not sure if I would have enjoyed it anyway!

Of all the costume material around Hallowe'en I remember the masks best. As I said near the beginning of this blog, when I arrived back home my mask smelled of chemicals and whatever had been used in the coloring leached somewhat.

Hallowe'en was fun - except for the masks! Of course - this is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of anybody else!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Farmer's Market

The day before yesterday I walked down University Avenue to an office supply business in order to purchase a packet of labels. My walk took me past the Toronto General Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children ('Sick Kids') which has a curved driveway with an entrance to the north at Gerrard Street and the exit to the south at the corner of University Avenue and Elm Street. The arc created by that driveway was lined with booths set up by farmers on which they were displaying the produce from their properties.

A few blocks further along University is City Hall and the enormous Nathan Phillip Square the east side of which is yet another Farmers' Market area. The supermarkets near there have their own display of fruit and vegetables but the 'authentic farm displays' seem to be more popular.
New Westminster, B.C. is the hub for those living in neighboring municipalities - including farmers out in the Fraser Valley and south of New West in the municipalities of Langley, Surrey and Delta. Therefore there is a Farmer's Market in New Westminster. The main business street for the city is Columbia and the secondary route down along the north bank of the Fraser River is Front Street. As  one proceeds east along Columbia the street rises and - four blocks later - it is along a bank high above the river. Many many years ago the Framers Market was built along the side of that 'cliff' with public access being down along Front Street.

Much earlier in these blogs I mentioned the eccentric bachelor - Harold Escott - who lived in a shack in the forest and who had permission to pick flowers from Harold Crewdson's flower gardens. These he took to that market every Friday where he earned some pocket money by selling them.

As we did not own an automobile in those days we relied upon the General Store in Maillardville  (and later upon a man who owned a truck which was specially outfitted for the transport of groceries, produce and fresh meat) so we did not patronize the Farmers' Market in New Westminster for our supplies. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I finally got to go to that market.

Since then I have been in others - including the one here in Toronto - but rarely patronize it - the supermarket across the street from here is much handier! Although I am very much attracted to the baked goods and the preserves at these markets which I am too lazy to make myself!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in the month of October. Our American neighbors (being further to the south and - therefore - warmer) celebrate the holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.

At the Metropolitan Community Church here in Toronto we celebrate Thanksgiving (as well as Christmas) with a huge 'potluck' dinner in our cavernous Social Hall. Recently the church board hired a new Assistant Pastor ( the Rev. Kevin Downer - an American and a delightful man). As a newcomer to us - and to Canada - he is prone to making gaffes at which we laugh heartily.

As the Rev Dr Brent Hawkes -  our Senior Pastor - had other commitments it was left to Kevin to be our 'host'. When it came time for speeches he got up on the stage and took over. He tried to give a history of our Canadian Thanksgiving but committed some errors much to the amusement of the rest of us.

In the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star there was an article about the history of our Canadian celebration of Thanksgiving. Whereas our American cousins know that the initial Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth Rock (in Massachusetts?) where the pilgrims were thanking God for a safe passage across the Atlantic Ocean.

The article in the Toronto Star enumerated a number of events in Canadian history that could have given rise to our autumnal celebration. However - it is understood that the initial celebration was arranged by Captain John Frobisher who explored much of the Arctic Ocean including an inlet found along the southern shore of Baffin Island which is now named Frobisher Sound. This is quite a lengthy inlet bounded on both sides by high banks - cliffs? - where it would be easy for a small vessel to become trapped by a sudden deep freeze so Frobisher was grateful for a safe voyage.

Kevin is a delightful man and - as he is a relatively newcomer among us - he does get local (and historical) information wrong. He was not accurate in relating the details of Frobisher's exploration and got the facts mixed up much to the amusement of the rest of us.

I am adding a photo taken in the Social Hall yesterday afternoon. The huge crowd shown is only a part of the throng which came with their offerings of food and there was more than enough to go around.

The Social Hall at MCCT yesterday afternoon (October 13, 2014).  You will note the woman - Jan - seated in the motorized wheelchair to the right of the tables and - if you look into the crowd in the direction of Jan's gaze - I am the second person from that end of the row. This is merely a portion of the crowd as people kept arriving right up until the end of the event and extra tables were set up where ever there was space for one.

Naturally - there was turkey on the menu (with cranberry sauce), mashed potatoes, vegetables and stuffing and gravy. This was followed by a wide assortment of dessert items. While I did not notice any pumpkin pies I am sure that there were some.

I did not linger long after I had consumed my meal but returned home on the transit to be greeted by Toby who is always thankful to see me return.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Water Mains, Parking Driveway and New Windows

Nobody ever said that living in a growing city is a quiet and peaceful place to be!

Out front of here is the busy intersection of Bay Street and Charles Street West. Travel east another block is Yonge Street Toronto's main north/south thoroughfare - and one more block brings you to Church Street and the Gay Village.

I am guessing that all of the major streets have water mains buried beneath them. A number of months ago the water main buried beneath Church Street sprang a leak just south of the Church/Wellesley intersection and early on Sunday morning, Water coursed down the thoroughfare flooding all the businesses on that side of the street which included a few restaurants that are normally very busy during the brunch hours on Saturday and Sunday (including the one which I usually patronize). What a mess!

Church Street south of Wellesley. The flooded restaurants extended from the shorter of the two buildings south of Welesley Street.

City workers came to shut off the flow and to patch up the damage. This spring I noticed equipment had arrived and I assumed that the repairs/replacement would occur before World Pride at the end of June.

Not so! Early this summer I began to see pipes and other equipment left at the curb. Finally - a couple of weeks ago - work began. Only the water main down Church Street was not the only one prepared for repairs - there is a water main below Charles Street too and it is being replaced all the way west to Queens Park (a long block west of here). Naturally this led to short detours and temporary 'bridges' along that route. When it came to bringing the new water main across Bay Street that was done during a night. I like sleeping with the patio sliding doors open so fresh air can come in - but not that night!

The two buildings in this complex. The ramp down to the underground garage is from the north with the exit on St Mary Street (this side). At present the St Mary Street ramp serves as both the entry and the exit.  Also - the windows being changed are in the taller of the two towers.

The intersection of Bay Street at Charles Street West. The new water main came across there.

Beneath these two buildings (this one and the neighboring tower) is a three level underground garage to which the ramp is being replaced. The entry ramp is off of Charles Street at the other end of this building. Jackhammers were  used to break up the original concrete and the noise was deafening. Toby loves to go out onto the balcony but he flatly refused to go there while the racket was continuing! I don't blame him - and I am grateful for the double glass doors which helped me to keep most of the racket outside.

The building in which I am living is 20 stories high and it is a long one with thirteen apartments on each floor. The second building - which sits slightly southeast of this one - is more than 30 stories high with no more than five or six units per floor.

While both of these buildings were erected by the same contractor they are owned by separate consortiums (rumor has it that the units in the other building are being converted to condominiums one unit at a time - there are only five or six on each floor). Commencing a number of months ago the management of the other building decided to replace all of the windows. In order to do so a modern 'forklift' is being used and there are two rather unpleasant characteristics to this piece of equipment.

It is parked just across the walkway from my apartment so - when the ignition is turned on in the morning - I am awakened by the roar and before I need to arise. Also, the machine is run on diesel fuel so there is a stench in the air.

The joys of living in a 'nice and quiet' area of the city!