Chapter 4 Vancouver to Ontario



Sunday 4 May Resting in Vancouver


At 7.30 AM, Dr. George Pugh knocked on our room door 187 at the Accent Inn while on his way to work as a doctor in emergency at the hospital.  He left a car and took a bike from the car to ride to work. He carried a 110-volt power supply for my ACER computer.  “You don’t need this supply,” George said examining the specifications of my supply. “Yours will take any input voltage.  All you need is a 110 to 240 volt plug adapter from radio shack.  I’ll get one tomorrow from my basement.”  George has everything in his basement, even our forty-year-old chemistry bottles, old test equipment and my dad’s radio tubes collection from the 1940’s and 1950’s.  He’s a classic collector, but files things so he can find them again.


To me, this short visit demonstrated some of George’s qualities, a focus on daily exercise to keep fit, his electronic expertise, his frugality and his high degree of organisation.  My memories of George as a youth included his dedication to rebuilding old tube operated equipment from radios to test equipment.  In a recent email George recalled his early interest when he wrote:  “I enjoyed the write-up on the page "REMOTE CONTROL OF AVIATION ELECTRONICS;  By John Mackesy VK3XAO" as it brought back memories of my youth...age 10-14 rewiring one of three radio compasses saved by my dad (worked as Engineer, radio installation,
Lancasters, Toronto, Ontario Canada). During the early 60's I learned much
about radio receivers during a conversion of a MN-26 to 115 V 60 cycles with
an operational drive to the motor system of the loop antenna. I note you
briefly mentioned the thyratrons that controlled 400 Hz ac motors...which I
scrapped in favor of a more prosaic relay controlled DC motor (that I could
understand). The radios were eventually scrapped, manuals sent to a
Lancaster museum (Nanton, Alberta) and I moved on to graduate in Electrical
Engineering. I still remember the old paper capacitors exploding with high
leakage currents! The workmanship and ingenuity of the 5 gang capacitor
tuning stage was remarkable. Yes, I still have the tubes and thyratrons
stored away...along with a couple of ancient household tube radio receivers.

Now I'm VA7GEP, Brother's VK6DN (Perth, Australia) and I'm glad that tracking NDB's is fast becoming
a dying (no pun intended) art form (along with radio ranges) in Canada.

My kids now believe they need 50 million active devices to have a
functional electronic MN-26 had less than 20 and still was a
delight to explore.”
George and I both played with an elaborate family chemistry set purchased by our dad, Ernie Pugh that contained concentrated acids, phosphorus and volatile base metals such as sodium.   Dad included a college chemistry text and warnings such as, “Remember, add acid to water, never add water to acid.” George would like to forget that experiment where he put a small piece of sodium into sulphuric acid with catastrophic results.  We both received our amateur radio license in 1968; I studied for my theory exam while George knew his electronics from home construction and his electrical engineering course (Science 71) at Queen’s University.  George went on to a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering, completing it in 1973, and then he entered medicine in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia.  Since then, George had many achievements, specialist in emergency medicine, twin-engine pilot certification with night flying, helicopter rating, Masters Degrees in Business Administration and Health Science and others.  When I turned up with a large camper bus in 1988, George held certifications for air brake repair and driving eighteen wheel transport trucks.  He handled the bus effortlessly and checked out the air brakes.


He is also careful with his money, preferring to take a course, learn new skills and to do a job himself rather than hiring a tradesman.  He drives old cars, uses a home built old computer, repairs his own cars, shingles the roof, and fixes the house computers, washing machines, plumbing, wiring, carpentry or whatever else needs doing.  “I’ve just fixed my Palm Pilot,” George told me to day.  “I took out a defective chip which controlled lighting and its working fine now.”  “He must be a fantastic doctor,” I often thought, “because he is so good at fixing mechanical things.”  He has not changed his house of thirty years while most doctors move to new larger houses. Unlike most doctors, George is not a workalcoholic, working only a three-day week.  “Most emergency doctors work part-time,” George said.  “It’s the nature of the work.  Success is keeping patients from dying.  I see lots of derelicts, or old people, living alone, in their final hours of life.  It’s often unpleasant challenging work but I enjoy it! I’m making up in free time now for all the time and work I put into my university studies.” George uses his free time in volunteer activities, boy scouts, adventurers, orienteering, camping, hiking, generously unstintingly sharing his passion and expertise with youth.



I thought back to my relationships with George as a child.  We were close in age so we played together a lot, swimming at the cottage, cubs and boy scouts, baseball and ice hockey.  I’m afraid I may have bullied him somewhat in his younger years until he gained in stature, and we both did silly things that we regretted.  A starter pistol shell I put on a hot stove lodged in George’s forehead while a firm push by George knocked me backwards as I climbed a railway embankment and left me impaled on a stake. I envied George his incredible brightness, his ability to score A’s in every subject, maintaining a ninety degree average year after year without a lot of work. We weren’t competitive, as I never left the starting gate in terms of IQ.   George seemed to relate much better with Ernie, our dad with their mutual interest in electronics and in their mutual fascination with the hobby of stamp collecting. Dad seemed more remote and impatient with me. I felt closer to our mother, Hazel. As we grew older and developed in maturity, we did exciting things together and grew closer.  We both attended Camp Comak as counsellors in 1965 and 1966.  We both had motorcycles and attended Queen’s together, seeing each other periodically for a meal together.  In 1971 George and I leaped out of a small plane on our first parachute jump. “I was absolutely terrified,” George admitted. “You jumped first, and I saw you plunge towards the ground without a parachute opening. I don’t know how I ever got out.” I attended George’s wedding to Pat in 1973, then left for Australia.  George and Pat flew from Canada and visited me in Royal Perth Rehabilitation Hospital for two weeks after I broke my neck in 1978.  Vancouver has always been a stop over for me on my numerous trips to Canada.


His wife Patricia (Pat) (ne Long) who was in George’s year at Belleville Collegiate, recalls, “George was chubby and wore heavy black frame glasses in high school in the mid 1960’s.  I didn’t notice him then.”  By second year of university in 1969, George had contact lenses, was tall and muscular, and working as a lifeguard. “He was a very cool dude, then, in his yellow Engineering Queen’s leather jacket,” Pat said, “and we started to date.”  Pat and George dated four years, until George, in sixth year of university began dating another girl.  George announced that he had been accepted at the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study medicine.  I asked why he had changed careers and he smiled and joked,   “Must have got my wires crossed!”  “He’s never given a straight answer and has never told me why he changed careers,” Pat said.  “I don’t know what kindled his excitement in medicine.  But he had worked on an unsuccessful one-year project to help the blind see electronically using a camera and grid of sensors worn on the back, for a Masters of Electrical Engineering thesis.  Perhaps, that influenced him into medicine, to get a job that helps others directly.”  I asked, “Why did you choose Vancouver, after growing up in Ontario?”  “I’d been there in 1968 during a trip with some friends,” George replied.  “I liked the moderate maritime climate, the ocean, the large mountains and the sizeable, well planned city itself.”  Of course, both our parents had lived and worked in British Columbia, with our granddad and dad growing up in Victoria.


Pat departed for Europe in disgust in 1973, having broken up with George, for an exciting two-month summer trip that included England, Switzerland and Italy.  “I didn’t want to go to Vancouver or marry a doctor and I was angry with George over his other girl,” she said. She returned two months later in August.  George dropped around on his 90cc Yamaha motorcycle and proposed, with a diamond ring.  Pat recalled, “My mum told me, don’t be so angry, Pat. Look again at this guy. He’s ok. I was still angry but mum talked me around and I accepted George’s proposal.”  George and Pat were married after a two-week engagement and I attended the wedding.  Pat eventually became involved in medicine herself and has nearly completed a Masters in Nursing Science while raising three babies.  She still lectures in obstetrics at the University of British Columbia three days a week.


George left for work, promising dinner out at 5.00 PM.  Richard and I partook in a McDonald’s breakfast, and then, while rain poured from leaden Vancouver skies, I typed this document and finished reading to the final page, 620, of Wilbur Smith’s exciting Courtney African adventure novel, Blue Horizons. I donated the exciting novel to Pat who enjoys reading. I’ve not seen George read novels.  Richard completed our laundry, watched television and I rang Lily Auld to learn that all was well in Perth. We both appreciated quiet time after four long flights in three days.


George and Pat Pugh picked us up at the Accent Inn at 6.30 PM and we drove to the Shaughnessy Restaurant in the fifty-five acre VanDusen Botanical Gardens (5251 Oak Street) where Pat is a tour guide.  Richard took a family photograph of George, Pat and I under a white flowering Dogwood tree, the official emblem of the Province of British Columbia, and under rising sun flag of BC.  “This botanical garden was once logged by the Canadian Pacific Railway, then from 1912 to 1964 it became the Shaughnessy Golf Club,” Pat told us, “and the pine trees that lined the fairways are over there.” Pat launched into a history.  “A philanthropist from England VanDusen donated the funds to set up the gardens in 1971 and the garden opened in 1975.  The garden attempts to be a living museum, a huge array of plants all scientifically organised and carefully planted and labelled in their natural habitat.  There is much to see, to learn and to do here: 22 acres of beauty, tranquil ponds and great views. Right in the centre of the city, the garden has areas representing different parts of the world. There are sculptures, and an Elizabethan hedge maze. Seasonal features include spring bulbs and rhododendrons, perennials, summer annuals and waterlilies, heathers in late summer, and an autumn colour display.”  As the garden closed at 8.00 PM we missed its display of camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and other spring plants but I had rolled the pathways with Lily on a previous trip in 1997.


We did enjoy the beautiful restaurant, trying the refreshing dry Wild Goose chardonnay from BC and fresh coho salmon. George dislikes drinking and usually avoids alcoholic drinks, but he joined us in a glass. “Remember,” he has said, “Beer is poison.  I see the effects of drinking every day in the emergency department.”  Following a relaxing meal, George provided a night tour of the central business, driving Burrard Street and the financial district, and then returned us to our room by 9.10 PM for an early night.


Monday 5 May 2003 White Rock


Up at 6.00 AM, Richard was busy until 9.00 AM with his tri-weekly time-consuming health and personal care procedures to get me going.  Then, after a McDonald’s breakfast, I rented a new Toyota Corolla with 1,500 kilometres on the odometer from Relax Rentals, at $60.00 daily for five days.  The agency was owned and operated by Hong Kong migrants who like many thousands of Chinese business migrants entered Canada and particularly Vancouver, ten years ago, to avoid the Communist take-over of Hong Kong.  I had promised to meet a school chum of mine, John Bateman, a retired lawyer and hunter, at 11.00 PM, in his beautiful spacious White Rock home, an hour’s drive south of Vancouver.  Unfortunately, it took thirty minutes to locate freeway 99 south, and in White Rock, another thirty minutes to find John’s house, near 144 Street on 21stA Street.  By 12.00 we pulled into John’s driveway of his large beautifully landscaped home.  John and his wife Mary Fran and John’s 91-year-old mum, Helen, escorted us to the Hazelmere Golf Club for a lovely lunch of ginger curried chicken.  John and I reviewed old times.


John’s dad, Dr Henry Bateman was the Pugh family doctor from 1950 until the doctor moved to Vancouver in the late 1970’s to enjoy a more temperate climate for his retirement.  John and myself both enjoyed our parents’ summer cottages in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, on Oak Lake, fifteen kilometres north of our hometown of Belleville, Ontario, with a population of 40,000 people.  Our cottage is still owned by my brother George Pugh, after being used by my sister Margaret and Ken Richmond and their children for two decades.   In high school, at Belleville Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, John and I were in the same class through five years from grades 9 to 13, taking the identical challenging options of Latin, French and Spanish.  Few other students opted for three languages, making our class a select group of hard working students.  I visited Henry Bateman’s hobby farm and Matechewan hunting camp, north of Denby, to deer hunt with John on a number of occasions and helped shingle the squared century old log two storey’s hunting camp roof one weekend.  As a student John was highly motivated to be a lawyer and was the only person I knew to own a 45-calibre handgun that his dad had given him and which he practised shooting using primers and wax in his basement. 


John was my room mate at Donald-Gordon Residence, Queen’s University in 1966/67; we shared a frigid nineteenth century stone building on Clergy Street the following year, and a more congenial Division Street home during third year. I entered Honours History, a four-year programme while John completed a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree.   Then John entered law at University of Toronto intending to practice law in Vancouver.  Our paths diverged, while I went on to a Masters of Arts Degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, 1971, and a Bachelor of Education Degree, at Queen’s, 1972, intending to teach high school.  The Batemans moved to Vancouver.   I acted as best man at John’s and Mary Fran’s wedding in the early 1970’s and I also visited Mary Fran’s home of Bermuda for a week, to attend John’s wedding.  Since then, I have kept in contact with John with annual Christmas letters. 


During lunch, I asked John his hunting plans, as hunting remains John’s only sport and principal passion.  “I’d like to hunt in Australia, but I’m not sure what is available.  I don’t want to shoot kangaroos, camels or horses, but wild buffalo and boar would interest me.  I’d really like to circumnavigate the Australian continent by car.  I’ve hunted wild geese in Moosonee and in Northern Alberta, and tried out some fishing camps with good results.” I knew John had also hunted wild animals in Africa from the large number of mounted trophy heads in his home including a Leopard head.   As I had worked for four months in Moosonee in 1972, on the southern shore of James Bay, John’s visit there interested me. My Masters of Arts thesis on the Swampy Cree focussed on Moosonee, and I had worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources there, paddling the Ekwan River to the Indian village of Attawapiskat.  John and I went on to discuss mutual friends from high school and Queen’s University.


Leaving the Batemans we returned directly to the Accent Inn without any navigational or traffic difficulties.  The hotel is adjacent to Highway 99 a four-lane freeway and traffic artery through Vancouver.  Turning on the history channel, I saw Doug Oram, a fellow Honours History student who was in my year of Arts 70 and in some of my history classes.  He is now a professor of history, with a beard as grey as mine, and looking similar to his appearance in the 60’s during the Vietnam War.  The history channel has contracted him to comment on TV about Canadian social, political and economic history for some of their programmes.


Richard and I passed an uneventful evening and turned in early.


Tuesday, 6 May Vancouver


Richard and I started late at 7.00 AM, finished a McDonald’s breakfast by 9.00 PM and booked the Victoria Accent Inn for Wednesday night.  Sadly, it lacks a wheel-in shower.  A review of ferry departures indicated hourly departures.  I had organised with Pat to catch up with the Bateman family, including Helen’s daughter and John’s sister, Marilyn McQuarrie in Steveston, at the Sockeye Salmon Station, a well-known restaurant overlooking a picturesque yacht club and fishing harbour.  The day was beautiful, a cool fifteen degrees Celsius but with usually bright blue skies.  We all drove to Steveston’s in my rental car, and the Batemans soon turned up.


After orders, cod and chips for me, John recollected about a few of our adventures.  Mary Fran commented, “Whenever I bake potatoes, Don, I think of you.”  “Yes,” John smiled, “Remember baking those potatoes on Division Street.  You forgot to put a hole in them and they exploded, totally eviscerated all over the inside of the oven.  What a mess!  It took an hour to clean the oven afterwards.”  John went on to tell Richard, “Don and me perfected the two minute hotdog before the microwave.  We made them in the time taken to run a television commercial.”  John recalled another adventure. I had taken John out to Oak Lake in a blizzard in mid-winter in my dad’s big old V8 Oldsmobile.  Driving down a country lane at sixty kilometres an hour in heavy falling snow, I found the snowplough had stopped leaving a three-metre bank of snow across the road at its termination.  It was too late. I hit the brakes, we skidded and I shouted, “hang on, guys, we’re going in.” The car was buried two metres deep in snow, up to the driver’s door, taking the four of us two hours to dig it out.  John was not impressed.  John also remembered me phoning his parents, when my parents were over visiting the Batemans. Dad asked, “Is this really important?  We don’t want to be disturbed.”  “Dad,” I said, “I think Dr Bateman better check me out.  I’ve fallen backwards on a stake and it’s embedded up my back.”  In fact, it penetrated six centimetres, missed my lung by a centimetre and left a two-centimetre scar in my back.  I liked John’s dad, who took us out for meals, and remembered Dr Bateman instructing me in techniques of good surgery as he cut me open. “Remember, Don, always go in deep, the extra inch. Ah, look at this, a piece of shirt. If I had missed this, left it there you’d be in a bad way.”


“Whatever happened to Edward Vickery?”  John asked curiously. Edward was a high school chum who was eccentric.  A talented artist, he was also good at languages and in 1964, hitchhiked to Mexico to practice his Spanish that he’d learned in our grade 11 Spanish classes.  He admired Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and talked of joining urban guerrilla movements. “I visited him twice while I was a Queen’s,” I said.  “I found he was supporting himself by theft, in Toronto rather than attending the Ontario School for the Arts.  He’d sneak up behind girls sketching in the museum and run away with their handbag.  The second time, I saw him in jail, incarcerated for walking out of a store with two typewriters.  That was the last that I heard from him.  I got a letter from his mum in 1976.  Edward had been found dead, in a public park, a suicide by his own handgun.  Police investigations found that he had been living as a vagrant in the park for many months.  His younger brother visited me in the mid 1980’s in Australia.  He didn’t remember Edward because he had been too young.”  Thinking about Edward’s tragedy made me feel sad at the waste of his extraordinary talents through a misdirected life.  I remember him boasting about his high intelligence, suggesting I was less clever than him, which unfortunately was true. I replied that goals and motivation were more important in life.  John and I possessed both these qualities, in abundance, and as I look back now, I think we have been proven right about the value of planning and working hard in a focussed way to achieve those plans. It pays off in the long run.


John and I discussed a possible around the world trip he might consider, including New Zealand, Nepal and Greece as well as Perth.  John has retired as a lawyer, and I expect to see him in a year or two.


Following a prolonged and very nice lunch, we finally bid the Bateman clan adieu at 3.00 PM, while George introduced me to geocaching (, a world wide activity based on finding treasure by using a GPS and solving puzzles.  George carried his $200.00 Canadian Tire GPS and a printout from an Internet site entitled “Fishing for Driftwood.” This site was in Steveston, two kilometres from the restaurant.  I held the GPS, which read out the direction to travel, distance to travel, and speed.  George pushed my wheelchair to the first site, a statute commemorating the Japanese fisherman who 125 years ago, had launched the BC fishing industry.  George then solved a simple puzzle to give us our new GPS coordinates, two and a half kilometres further to the east on the tidal banks of the Fraser River. The scenery was magnificent, white-capped mountains to our north and the collection of fishing boats bobbing around in the sparkling blue water of the harbour in front of us, backed by restaurants and coffee shops.   We drove to a few hundred metres to the location.  George and Richard found the treasure, a plastic box stuffed with prizes, from playing cards to key chains, cleverly hidden in a large driftwood trunk, on the muddy tidal flats, after a ten-minute search.  Rules of the game are to take one treasure and donate another, with George donating a 386 Intel CPU chip and completing the log notebook, marking him as the twelfth contestant to locate this site.  We were all excited, pleased and terribly proud of ourselves to have located this treasure.  George is a keen orienteering participant, who competes in national competitions annually.  Geocaching has also obviously caught his fancy.


Returning to the hotel room, we showed George and Pat our Vancouver slides, and then they departed for a Boy Scout meeting by 5.00 PM.  Richard and I prepared for an early morning trip to Victoria.



Wednesday 7 May. Victoria


Richard showered at 4.00 AM and completed my health care procedures between 5.00 and 7.00 AM. He packed the car and by 7.30 AM we were mobile. Vancouver weather was cool today with showers, with a maximum of thirteen degrees Celsius and I noticed the rain annoyingly soaking me during my five-minute transfer into the Corolla. I now had a map to access Highway 99 south and knew I’d turn right off Cambrie onto Shell, left off Shell onto Westminster, then right onto the Freeway.  Monday took us thirty minutes to find 99 south, today, five minutes to reach the freeway thanks to the hotel’s simple hand sketched map.  After stop and go queuing to cross the tunnel under the Fraser River, we reached Highway 17 and arrived at the ferry terminal at Tsawassan by 8.30 AM.


Richard plugged in my 2-meter amateur radio, and mounted the magnetic antenna base and 5/8 whip on the bonnet of our car.  I looked up the Internet Radio Link Protocol frequency for Vancouver, set my radio to 145.270 MHz –600 duplex offset, the local repeater in Vancouver, then dialled 6200 using DTMF tones.  I was instantly connected to repeater VK6RFM, Fremantle Western Australia, and listened as my wife Lily announces the connection amidst kookaburras.  I run the Fremantle IRLP node on my ADSL Internet system and a Linux based computer. “Pleased to see the system is still up, unattended after my absence of three weeks,” I thought.  I chatted for thirty minutes with Robyn, VK6XRE still up at midnight and caught up with news.  As we drove onto the ferry I lost the radio signal. 


I was disappointed to be trapped in the car for the one hour thirty-five minute trip of thirty-two kilometres to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.  “Bring me back some breakfast,” I begged Richard.  I was happy when he turned up with a coffee and muffin.  “This ship is really large,” Richard told me.  “There are restaurants, coffee bars, and observation platforms.  I’m really impressed.  The view is great too, as we are passing really close to very hilly small islands with little cottages, granite outcrops and covered in conifers.”


Arriving at Swartz Bay, we drove ten minutes to the delightful tourist town of Sydney, a place of restaurants, souvenir shops and coffee shops.  There we caught up with Urs and Judy Boxler, friends of mine dating back to Perth in 1978.  Urs had graduated with a Masters in Business Administration, and Judy with a Masters in Computer Science in 1973.  I think they met in Toronto on the job when they both started their computing careers; Urs was Swiss and Judy American.  In 1977-78, they completed a year and a half trip in a camper van overland through Asia, from London to Turkey, via Ephesus, Cappadocia, through southern Iran via Isfahan, through northern Afghanistan via Mazar e Serif, Kabul, and Bamiyan, to Lahore, Pakistan, Delhi and Srinagar, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal, the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia.  They shipped their van from southern India to a port in northern Sri Lanka, then from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Singapore, then from Penang, Malaysia to Fremantle, Western Australia. After the van was shipped off to Australia, they travelled on with backpacks through Thailand, Burma, and the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali in Indonesia. Soon after their arrival in Australia, they obtained computing jobs in Perth. I had completed a similar trip, taking the same route in 1976.  I met them at a party and we shared experiences.  Urs was an excellent photographer, taking hours to compose immaculate photographs, which left me in awe.


At the end of 1977, I broke my neck but continued meeting them as a quadriplegic in 1978.  Then, in September of 1979, they set off travelling, a half-year around Australia, and two months in New Zealand, and stopovers in Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti.  Reaching Los Angeles, they travelled in California and Arizona and in 1980, decided to settle in Vancouver.  Urs worked for a smaller local computer company with forty people, which at his retirement from being a partner in the company in 1998, had grown to one thousand employees located in fifteen offices in North America.  Judy lectured for an adult college in computing, eventually founding the computer science department and becoming its chair. Later she became chair of the Mathematics and Sciences division, looking after five departments.


I caught up two or three times in the intervening years in Vancouver and continued to exchange annual letters and email.  Once both of the Boxlers were retired at the young age of 55, they sold their home and invested in a forty-six foot luxury sailing yacht, the Raven Song and a summer cottage on Pender Island.  They now live full time on their boat in False Creek, Vancouver and cruise six months of the year also enjoying their summer cottage in the Gulf Islands.  I commented to Richard.  “They’ve achieved an ideal lifestyle, in my opinion, a sound early education, comprehensive world travel for years as young adults, a career and a settled life for twenty years, early retirement and the chance to explore the world on a luxury yacht.” 


We met the Boxlers at the Boardwalk Café overlooking Sydney Yacht moorings.  “How are you enjoying your retirement,” I asked.  I was sitting next to Urs, eating a tasty bowl of chilli and he replied.  “We are having a wonderful time.  You are lucky to catch us because we were planning to depart in late April for Alaska, but we deferred that plan until next year.  We moor at False Creek, in Vancouver, and then sail the coast for the summer months.  We sail for a few days, and then anchor serenely for some days off some remote sandy beach to explore misty fiords, old growth forests, trails, lakes and waterfalls.  We fish, catch Coho and Chinook salmon and collect crabs, prawns and oysters.  We take wildlife photographs of seals, sea lions, pacific white-sided dolphins, porpoises, humpback whales, ravens, eagles and grizzly bears.  It’s a wonderful, relaxing scenic experience with magnificent sunsets and curtains of dancing northern lights.  At night we sometimes hear concerts of wolves howling at the moon.  We are never bored as there is always work on board, maintaining the boat.  I’m also working on a photography book.  I now have a ham license VA7URS and a HF transceiver.” “Do you ever get lonely?” I asked.  “No, we ask various friends to join us on segments of our cruises and we meet and join other yacht people.  The radio helps us there.”  After lunch Urs introduced me to Peter, a lean Australian yachtsman and ham operator who had sailed across the Pacific.  He was wheeling a large loading bin, to prepare his yacht to sail back to Townsville by way of Hawaii and the Marshall Islands.


 In September 2003, Peter arrived in Townville, after 50 days at sea covering 7000 nautical miles. They have a web site that covers the trip, as well as many of their previous adventures, complete with pictures and maps. -


 Leaving the Boxlers to return to their moored yacht, we drove down Blanchard Street to Victoria to explore the Royal BC Museum, next to the Provincial Parliament Buildings, Empress Hotel and the scenic harbour on Belleville Street.  We toured Dragon Bones, a large Chinese exhibition of the world’s most complete collection of dinosaurs’ skeletons.  Over fifty complete skeletons were on display, a thoroughly amazing and educational collection including flying ones. 


Then at 4.00 PM I caught up with Grant Holland, VE7GRF.  Grant was of medium height with brown hair and a moustache, and he carried four or five different handheld radios strapped to his belt.  “I love radio,” he told me, “Some say I’m a fanatic, but I do spend time with my wife and two children.”  I had talked with Grant weekly for the last year, usually while he walked his dog, Charlie at 11.00 PM carrying his handheld, and I was driving to a Wednesday lunch using the IRLP system of linking two-meter repeaters.  Grant has travelled the world, mostly by motorcycle, but now, middle aged, he works in the four stories of catacombs and tunnels beneath the museum complex.  As he bought me a coffee from the museum café, he told me, “I order parts and arrange maintenance services here.  I’m actually from Texas but love Victoria.  My wife grew up here.  I always wear an earphone and monitor the 9200 Indianapolis reflector. People think its part of my job, to monitor a security channel, to my amusement but I’m actually on ham radio.”  Grant and I discussed radio for an hour, and then he left to catch the “54 seat limousine” as he calls the city bus.


Leaving the museum, we drove over the swing up bridge to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.  In 1968, I had completed in Esquimalt, my second four-month training as a UNTD reserve naval officer, and had graduated with my officer’s commission as a second lieutenant that summer. I had enjoyed that particular summer firstly because of the opportunity to take the CPR train from Belleville to Vancouver, admiring the scenery through the Rocky Mountains from a glass-topped observation car.  I loved the two-week exciting cruise down the Pacific coastline and up the Columbia River to attend the City of Portland Rose Festival.  I had also bought a 250 cc Suzuki X6 Hustler motorcycle, for $600.00, partially a twenty first birthday present from my parents and I rode it all around Victoria, to the Young’s Swanigan Lake cottage on weekends, then back across Canada on Highway 1 at the summer’s end. That gruelling one-week trip, 3,000 kilometres across Canada put me off motorcycles, particularly because of aches and pains suffered from riding in rainy freezing weather over the rocky mountain pass to Banff.


Leaving the naval base, we passed the Tudor Hotel, an old watering hole, on the corner of Admiral and Esquimalt Road.  We drove up Admiral’s Road and dropped in unexpectedly to see Margaret Young, an ex-school teacher who is nearing 80 who has travelled most of the world.  I knew her now deceased husband Arthur, ex-mayor of Esquimalt, and former butcher, who had welcomed me numerous times to their cottage in 1968.  We talked briefly of Margaret’s seven-week trip around Australia in the late 1950’s. I wondered at the Pugh-Young connection, and was told, “Aimee, my mother travelled out from England with your grandmother around 1910.  They both settled in Victoria and remained friends, and the Pugh-Young connection remained close.  Your Grandfather, Robert Pugh and his wife Agnes, grew up in Victoria and Robert was a greenkeeper at the Oak Bay golf club.  Robert raised two children, Albert and your dad, John Ernest Pugh.”


Leaving Margaret, we drove back through Victoria to locate the Accent Inn, our hotel for to night. We found it easily but were disappointed with the rank smell of cigarette smoke in the room.  Eating at Branigan’s restaurant, Richard tried out Grower’s Peach Cider (7% alcohol) and Canadian macaroni and cheddar cheese, a dish I was raised on.  “It’s only ten dollars.  Everything here is so cheap.  Canadians are all so wealthy.  I can’t believe how cheap food is here.”  I pointed out that Richard was forgetting the provincial and federal tax had yet to be added to the price as well as a fifteen percent tip, and twenty percent currency exchange rate.  The price for the meal matched Australia’s.  We turned in by 10.00 PM.


Thursday 9 May Vancouver


Arising by 6.00 AM Richard had dressed me and packed for an early check out at 8.00 AM.  An early start was important, because I had organised to meet my cousin Shirley Pugh (McLaughlin) in Nanaimo, a 100-kilometre drive over the Malahat Trail on Highway 1.  “Remember,” Shirley told me, “Exit Hwy 1 at Campbell River, follow that freeway to the sign saying City Centre, turn right and I’ll be waiting in a maroon Oldsmobile station wagon at 11.00 AM.”  “Wow!” I wondered. “Would I manage this navigational feat?"


We drove up Douglas Street, which becomes Highway 1 and were soon out of the city without a wrong turn.  I remembered the mountains and magnificent red cedar forest at Gold stream Provincial Park, so we stopped for photographs.  “I love this country,” Richard declared.  “Everything is so beautiful.  These trees are gigantic.”  Stopping at Gold stream Eco Resort we talked to a horse rider.  “I live next door but commute everyday into Victoria.  It’s a long drive but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.  On Wednesdays I take a half day to horse ride.”  The steep pass known as the Malahat Trail gave more photograph opportunities, looking down on distant blue lakes backed by snow-clad mountains.


Time to reach Shirley at 11.00 AM was running short, but we popped into Chemainus, a small lumber mill community on the shores of a large lake filled with rafted timber to view their famous murals.  This town had apparently died with a declining timber industry.  Someone had decided to document the Canadian story of the fur trade, lumber trade, railway building, road building and the native Indian culture through large wall murals on many of the town’s buildings.  The experiment was a success, generating considerable tourist traffic from Highway 1, with supporting hotels and coffee shops.


Pushing on hurriedly from this engaging town, we intersected with Cousin Shirley as planned at 11.10 AM.  She guided us through town to the Coastal Bastion Hotel in scenic Nanaimo on the waterfront.  She told us, “The hotel is named from a one hundred and fifty year old wooden bastion dating back to fur trading days.  I was born here,” Shirley continued, as we got out of our cars in the high-rise car park.  “This place was a shabby coal mining town, so I told people I was born in Vancouver.  I’ve got photos here for you of your and my granddad Robert Pugh as a boy.  Your dad, Ernie and his older brother, Albert, who fathered Robert Pugh and me, lived in Victoria his whole life.  My dad, Albert became a master mariner for the CPR and during the 1930’s I grew up in Penticton, as he drove boats on Okanogan Lake. He later moved to New Westminster with his wife Sarah in the 1950’s.  Your dad Ernie with his wife Hazel taught school in Oliver but visited us every weekend in the 30’s.  The two brothers were very close and I knew your dad well.  Ernie later moved on to Montreal to work on the war effort as an electrical engineer during the 1940’s.  Albert and Ernie met in 1958 when he took you on a trailer trip across Canada and down through the northern United States.  Albert visited Ernie in 1959 and died soon after from his asthma difficulties.”  I thought, “I can still remember hearing my dad cry on hearing of his brother’s death.  It was the only time I ever saw him cry.”


I asked Shirley about her marriage to Peter McLaughlin, a university professor who worked for the World Bank in third world countries around the world.  “I met him at the University of British Columbia. I attended the University of Toronto in second year and hated it, so I returned to UBC and graduated with a BA in Geography. I went on to teach school.  Peter and I were married in 1955, the same year he earned his PhD.  He had just returned from a year in the British Colonial Service in Africa.  We spent the next thirty years in countries across Africa and Asia travelling in luxury and treated like royalty.  I loved Lahore, Pakistan for its vibrancy, colonial buildings, and temples.  I also enjoyed Djakarta in 1986, and Dar-a-Salem in the Sudan.”  Shirley talked of so many exotic locations where Peter had worked and she had lived that I lost count.  Peter originated from Comox, Vancouver Island, and the couple chose to retire there.  Shirley ran for the provincial and national liberal party but failed to be elected.  “I’d have nothing to do with that right wing liberal party that’s in power in British Columbia now,” Shirley declared.  “It favours big business and raises taxes on the disadvantaged.”   Peter died a few years back from ill health and Shirley now lives alone, gardening and doing volunteer work. “I’m keeping his wheelchair and crutches for when I get old,” she declared.  “That won’t be for some time yet.”  She was on the Comox City Council for six years.


Shirley fostered two children and looked after her brother Robert Pugh’s girl, Nina [on bike in photo] during her high school years.  “She was bright but unmotivated,” Shirley reflected.   She truanted and refused to work.  She barely scraped through school.  She loved horseback riding.  What saved her was her love of computers.  It helped her get a good job at Sears.  She had planned to see you this week but she has been made redundant and this is her last week of work.  Her daughter Janelle is thirteen and loves dancing.”


After enjoying a local boutique beer called ‘fat boy,’ and grilled snapper, Richard and I farewelled Shirley and drove to Duke Point to catch the ferry from Nanaimo back to Tsawwassin, a pleasant and relaxing two hour and a $50.00 trip.  The ferry left at 3.15 PM so we reached the boat with time to spare.  Sensibly, I used the boatlift to sit in the lounge to view the distant hills of Vancouver Island as we cruised rapidly but gently under cloudless blue skies on a still ocean.


Reaching Tsawwassin by 5.15 pm, we quickly debarked and drove north towards snow tipped mountains enveloped in a purple twilight.  We plunged bumper to bumper through the South Fraser River tunnel, crossed the soaring South Fraser Bridge with its timber rafts, muddy brown waters and warehouses and turned onto 49th Ave to visit my brother George in his Kerrisdale home on 48th Avenue.  We reached George’s house off Maple Street without a navigational mishap.  The house is a two story brown stucco building, topped with cedar shingles, with garage, hedge, colourful flower beds and emerald green lawn, and with eight cement stairs rising in a threatening way to the first floor, an imposing obstacle for any wheelchair bound person.  George purchased this home from my mother when he entered medical school in 1973.  My mother had inherited the house, valuable for its proximity to CBD, Vancouver from George McLanders, an elderly relative whom I had visited in 1968.  He had died without a direct heir.  Since then, without major modifications, George and Pat had raised their three sons, Trevor, Kevin and Steven there.


Trevor is now finished third year biochemistry at UBC and has applied for medicine.  Like George, he is tall and blond, with a quick lively intelligence.  He is musically inclined; playing several instruments and has supported him with a computer repair business, which he recently sold for $10,000.00.  George noted, “Trevor has even paid his own university costs last year and has moved into his own apartment.”  “I really like his girlfriend,” Pat said.  “She complements him perfectly.”  I remembered Trevor as withdrawn and shy and was amazed at his confidence and social skills, which he had developed with his computer business.


Kevin, the middle child is attending the University of Victoria for an Honours BA in medieval history and computing entering into his third year.  Pat told me, “He’s held two jobs this year and saved enough for a six week trip which he’s doing with a girl.  He is in England now but is going to Germany to practice German which he has studied.”  We missed seeing him.  “He’s nearly two metres in height, very solid build, and is the most extraverted child.  The house revibrates when he’s here,” Pat said.  “He juggles and clowns around, always full of energy and good humour.  He struggles with academic work and is very dedicated. He loves History but tells me he wants a job that pays well.  Teaching is too poorly paid, he says, but I think he’d be a great teacher.” 


Steven, the youngest, is entering university from year twelve in September.  Pat said, “Although he experienced difficulties in reading and writing, he has excelled in Maths and computer programming. He loves music and sings beautifully. He wants to be a computer programmer.  We told him there is no money in music.”    George expressed sadness that he had been rejected for music at UBC, but accepted in computer science at the University of Alberta in Calgary.  “He’s got a summer job at the high school tutoring in music this year, and has been tutoring in Maths for twenty dollars an hour,” George said.  “He’s also learning to fly to get a pilot’s license like Kevin and Trevor.” 


George is delighted with all his children’s progress.  “George is frugal with his money,” Pat joked, “but will always open his wallet and pay for anything educational for our children.  He’s pleased to pay for their university and flying lessons.”  George laments, “It’s costing me $350,000.00 per child to raise and educate them.  That’s why I’m not getting to Australia.”


George greeted me enthusiastically, “Just in time for dinner. Good work!  I’ll have you up the stairs in no time.” I fraternally reminded George that he had aged and lost some hair since my 1997 visit, and I had added some weight since he last single handedly had muscled me up his lengthy cement stairs.  Trevor and Steve with George and Richard completed the manoeuvre without undue stress on anyone but me.


We enjoyed the tasty roast beef dinner with a Bulgarian cabernet sauvignon with a Pavlova desert made by George.  “I don’t get him in the kitchen very often,” Pat exclaimed, “So I praise everything he cooks to encourage him.”    “Here are some of our family photos,” Pat said, after dinner, showing me a picture of a slim small girl with long chestnut dark hair, Pat of the late 1960’s.  Pat is still a vivacious enthusiastic lady, eager to participate in the physical outdoor adventures of her scout troop, whom she leads, attending weekly meetings and wild River rafting, spelunking, skating, skiing, camping, and travel.  Now Pat is more robust in build with shorter grey hair and a cheerful smile. 


“I’d like to hook my laptop to your DSL system,” I asked hopefully, and two minutes later I enjoyed a high-speed connection and read my mail.  One email advised me of the tragedy of the suicide of a former high school student creating havoc in my school.  “Sure glad I’m away,” I commented. Soon it was 9.30 PM, the Canucks had lost a hockey game to Minnesota, and it was time to leave.


We negotiated down the stairs without a drama in the dark.  I demonstrated contacting a Perth repeater via IRLP, on my two-meter radio from the car, saying, “I’m looking forward to some radio activity with you, George.  I see your car license plate is VA7GEP.”   At night, navigation is challenging.  We exited the freeway, Highway 99 one exit too soon and wasted ten minutes finding our hotel in the dark.  By 11.00 PM I was in bed.


Friday 10 May Grouse Mountain


Our plan today is to pick up Pat at 10.30, at 48th Avenue, then meet George at Queen Elizabeth Primary School.  He is running a volunteer orienteering activity, at 11.30, and then we are driving through the Stanley Park rain forest, over the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore for a trip to the top of Grouse Mountain for lunch.  Richard drove Pat and me, pulling a left turn directly in the face of fast moving oncoming traffic.  “It scared me badly,” Pat said.  “I really thought they’d hit us and they would have if they hadn’t braked.”  The plan worked except George did not appear from orienteering until 12.30, muttering, “I detest those kids, preserve me from them! They grumble about orienteering and don’t want to be bothered with their maps or do anything at all.” 


I talked with Pat for an hour.  “What made you go into nursing?” I asked curiously.

“Well,” Pat replied.  “I attended Saint Lawrence College in Kingston for two years learning to care for children with special needs. I liked play therapy and completed a behavioural modification project with an East Indian school psychologist.  Those kids were great and I thought about psychology as a career.  In Vancouver, I worked at the Maple Centre with conduct disordered troubled high school youth with drug, and drinking issues. I hated it and felt intervention with teenagers was way too late.  These kids were set in their ways and I detested their destructive behaviours.  I searched for another career and George suggested nursing.  I attended UBC for four years, without recognition of my Ontario studies.  I then cared for three babies and completed most of my Master of Nursing degree part-time over four years.  I worked as a community nurse before specialising in obstetrics.” 


Then George turned up. George was uninsured for our rental car but drove us skilfully over the suspension bridge giving us a view of rafts of logs, and the many high-rise buildings in the CBD.  Within twenty minutes we reached the sky ride to Grouse Mountain, eight minutes up the mountain for $30.00.  “It’s expensive,” George said, “and I must be at work by 3.00 pm. Do you want to go?”  “Yes, let’s go,” I volunteered.  “This car carries a hundred people,” the driver told us.  “We operate it up to 70 kilometres of wind.  Often there are black bear or deer feeding below.  To the left is Vancouver’s Capilana water reservoir, one of three in the mountains.  In the background is Lion’s Mountain.”  Reaching the top, I found a detrimental change in weather, cold, drizzle and piled snow banks everywhere.  “I don’t like skiing here,” Pat confined.  “It’s too crowded and tourist oriented.  I prefer Cyprus Mountain with its wider slopes.”  We elected for a fast food meal, a Hamburger, Nanaimo bars, and cappuccino.  We then explored the large log woodcarvings dotted around the site.  “These are done by local Indians with chain saws,” George remarked conversationally.  “They’re done to represent Canadian wildlife and work, such as the lumberjack.”   George added, “I like to do the Grouse Grind. I’m not referring to the coffee.  It’s a one-hour run up a trail to this platform, mainly up steps.  I do it with friends on Saturday morning, have a coffee here and take the sky car down.”  We rapidly ran out of time because of George’s 3.00 pm work deadline and joined a multicultural mix of Indian, Korean, Chinese and white year two students, who were on excursion.  They were having a great time.


It was time for closure. We dropped George off at 3.05 PM at St Vincent’s hospital in time for work, then dropped Pat off, saying our goodbyes to Steven and Pat. We returned to drop off the rental car to Relaxed for a $300.00 fee including our five hundred kilometres. I paid off the hotel for $583.43 and Richard commenced doing our washing and packing at 8.00 PM.  We finished the litre bottle of Canadian Club I had purchased duty free in Fiji, and then enjoyed a veal and potato meal with a Labatt’s Blue Pilsner at the Pancake House.  George was picking us up tomorrow at 7.00 AM for the 10.00 Air Canada flight to Calgary. I confirmed our visit with Chris Richmond at the Port O’Call, Calgary at 1.00 PM tomorrow afternoon.


“I really like Vancouver,” Richard sighed, as I dropped off to sleep.  “It’s the best place I’ve seen and I’d rather be here than in hot sunny Perth.  The climate is nicer, prices cheaper, there’s thirty five thousand polish migrants settled here and the place is beautiful with its mountains.”  “Yes, you haven’t seen the cold damp weather, with it raining here day after day, sodden clouds all winter, Richard. Two sunny days now and you’re thinking its paradise.  A pessimist is one who is always unhappy where he is and sees greener fields elsewhere at first exposure,” I thought with acerbity.


End of Chapter 4