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.