Chapter 5, Calgary and Edmonton to Ridgetown, Ontario

 

 

Saturday May 11th Calgary

 

Richard arose before dawn at 4.00 AM, showered, dressed me and then packed until 6.30 AM.  He then left to visit Garek, a Polish manager at the Pancake House restaurant. “He was a merchant seaman, who travelled the world and found Vancouver the nicest place to live so he bought the restaurant seven months ago.  His daughter is beautiful and speaks broken Polish since she left Poland at eight years of age.” Richard is fascinated with how wealthy people earn their money, and he feels most wealth is stolen money. “Oh, he must have committed some terrible crime to raise $350,000.00 for the franchise,” Richard lamented.  “No, Richard,” I replied.  “I imagine he wrote a sound business plan, put up his house as collateral and borrowed the money from the bank.  That’s how people usually start businesses.”

 

George arrived at 7.15 am outside the Accent Inn in his van and we were waiting outside impatiently, ready to go. “Sorry, got held up,” he apologised quickly.  At the airport we enjoyed breakfast with George at an A & W root beer outlet.  I ordered Sausages n’Eggers and we pleasantly chatted until 9.00 am.  Unfortunately, our 10.15 am flight had been cancelled by Air Canada and we had to wait until an 11.15 am flight. 

 

“You’ll enjoy it,” George told Richard. “Lots of mountain peaks and you’ll lose an hour.”  George demonstrated writing graffiti on his Palm Pilot to Richard.  “I’ve downloaded 1,400 names and addresses from Outlook and also have a programme detailing drug information.  Name any drug and I’ll give you a run-down.”  Too soon, we said goodbye to George, then bought some souvenir fridge magnets, cleared security without the drama we experienced in the US, without shoe searches, and made our way along horizontal escalators to gate 34C for our Boeing 319 flight to Vancouver.

 

A strong enthusiastic man shifted me to an aisle chair, then into a business class bulkhead seat.  We enjoyed glasses of wine as we peered down through the fluffy white clouds at the Rocky Mountains, reduced to miniature size by ten thousand metres of altitude.  Ninety minutes later we saw the plains near Calgary still spotted with snow from a mid-Spring blizzard. “It’s cold here,” I warned Richard, “and it snows in spring and autumn. There are almost no trees and the few there won’t be in leaf and there are no flowers like Vancouver. It’s eight degrees Celsius now with scattered snowdrifts.  We’re also up a thousand metres and that cools things down.” 

 

We landed smoothly, and I was transferred directly into my Quickie wheelchair at the airplane door.  “Tourism is big here, Richard,” I lectured.  “Nine million tourists here to visit a city of eight hundred thousand people.  They call the roads ‘trails’ and name them western style, Crowchild Trail, Deerfoot Trail, and so on. The city’s divided into four quadrants. There’s a rodeo called the Calgary Stampede every summer with chuck wagon races.  Calgary is big in technology and oil, people are dynamic, and there are lots of jobs.  The zoo is fifth largest in the world. There’s also three hundred kilometres of cycle paths.  Notice the land’s nearly flat plain with no native trees except small hardy aspen.  This was once the home to millions of bison.”

 

We made our way independently to the baggage pickup area, admiring displays over the luggage escalators of hippos and warthogs by the Calgary Zoo and displays of pesky dinosaurs tearing up luggage by the Royal Tyrrell Museum.  We located car rentals up a lift in another building and rented a Ford Taurus, a full size six-cylinder car.  Richard was uncomfortable with the American design.  “I can’t get the seat forward.”  “It’s electric, wiggle the switch,” I suggested.  “Where’s the headlight switch?”  “The turn indicators won’t work!”  “Go see the Budget guy, he’ll help you,” I said. I felt embarrassed for Richard when the clerk flipped the indicators and they worked perfectly.  “I’m stressed,” Richard muttered. Later, Richard learned that the indicators only worked with the engine running.

 

We wasted five minutes on one wrong turn, going east instead of west, then found the large eight story Great Western Port O’Call hotel on McKnight Street near the airport at 3.30 pm.  “Got to get a GPS like George,” I thought. “I confuse my directions.”   I’d found this place on the Internet advertising roll-in showers.  Chris and Jill Richmond and nine month old Lily Richmond turned up simultaneously, and I accompanied them to their house in their Ford Taurus, similar to our rental car.  [1990 Newspaper Article about Chris] [ Chris 1990 Letter]  We drove past Chris’s work place, ComputerState, two neat units in an industrial estate. “I’m regional sales manager, here,” Chris explained.  “My previous computer company where I was a network engineer, failed at Christmas, and I’ve been unemployed for three months.  It was hard to find a new job, but I’m excited with this one, learning new sales skills. It’s mainly commission, but we sell industrial computers so the field is less competitive.  I’m developing contacts and think I’ll do well.”

 

We continued driving back to their home in a new treeless suburb, near an artificial lake, and chatted for three hours. Both Chris and Jill are very tall, lean people with light brown hair.  Chris runs regularly and participated in a twelve-hour iron man marathon two years ago.  He hauled me up three wooden steps into his house effortlessly. He is my sister Margaret’s elder boy. I looked around the house, a new two story frame building with basement, well equipped for a young couple with furniture, carpet, pictures, home entertainment, computers, a large grey cat and a manic Jack Russell terrier.  While we talked, the cat settled on my lap, the dog enthusiastically chased balls, and Lily cheerfully untied my shoelaces, climbed my leg, played with the wheelchair brakes and cooed happily.  “This is a place of domestic tranquillity,” I thought.  “They are really doing well as young parents.”   

 

“Jill and I got married in 1998 after we went out together in third year at Queen’s University,” Chris said.  “I was doing a BA in Environmental Science and Jill was in History.”    “Yeah, Lily and I visited you in 1993, I think, and we all had lunch together,” I said. “I last saw you in 1999 for lunch, after donating my bone marrow to Margaret.  Why did you move west after living and working in Kitchener, Ontario for a few years?”   Jill replied quickly, “It’s my initiative. I was working full time as a nurse in Ontario and I hated the chronic cuts and under-funding, the low pay, deteriorating conditions and low morale.  I saw a relocation package to Calgary, better salary, conditions and moving expenses. We had driven out west earlier and liked Calgary so Chris resigned from his job, we moved, and we bought a house here.” 

 

“What is it like here,” I asked.  Jill replied, “I like the nursing work in a cardiac ward as everyone is young and enthusiastic.  Most people in Calgary are in their twenties or thirties. It’s taken awhile to get used to the cold weather.  With the new baby, it’s been really hard, not having relatives to support us.  We miss having our parents to help care for Lily and give us a break occasionally.  I go back to work full-time next week and Lily will be in day-care.”  Chris added, “It’s been hard with my unemployment for three months and Jill missing work because she’s home with the baby.  She gets fifty five percent of her salary as maternity payment, but we need to be careful.  We hope things are going better now Jill’s back at work and I’ve a job.”

 

“What were your summer jobs, Chris?” I asked.  “I picked corn each summer in high school, enjoyed being a camp counsellor, worked at The Ridgetown Agricultural College two summers doing research, and spent my last two summers as a waiter at Howard Johnston.  I had studied Japanese and it really helped me with my Japanese customers,” Chris said. “I also was licensed to run charity gambling and was a blackjack dealer.”  I could identify with being a camp counsellor as I had worked three summers at Camp Comak, on Lake St Nora, Haliburton, Ontario from 1964 to 1966.  I, too, had cared for nine-year-old boys and taught swimming, sailing and photography during the day.

 

At 7.00 pm Chris drove me back to the hotel.  Richard and I dined at Destiny’s Restaurant which looked out on the pale setting sun at 9.00 pm.  “Why’s it so light here at such a late hour?” Richard wondered.  “We are north of the 49th parallel of latitude,” I replied, “and the further north, the longer the summer days.  I remember being in Alaska in July1988 and the sun didn’t set at all. I could read a book outside at 3.00 am. Amazing!”  A nesting Canada goose and its male mate entertained us by being camped in a low green bush on the terrace outside the restaurant window.  “It’s been there for two years now, nesting,” the waitress informed us.  “The mother’s sitting on eggs and they raise their young gosling’s right there.” By 10.30 pm we were in bed.

 

Sunday, 11 May Calgary

 

Richard and I slept in until 8.00 am, and I breakfasted at the hotel Coffee Shop near our room on a bran muffin.  I spent the morning typing, and then saw the receptionist to plan our route to the Taylor abode, our next visit. “Go along McKnight and John Laurier, turn left onto 53rd, drive to the end,” she advised.  At noon, Richard and I drove to Varsity Estate, an older housing development, and fortunately for my self-esteem, I navigated without a single wrong turn, to reach the Taylor's home.  “Lots of mature balsam and aspen here,” I observed.  “These trees were planted thirty years ago.  It’s a contrast with the treeless new Richmond estate.  Look, it’s built around a golf course, which snakes through ravines behind the houses. Wow! That must be a selling point, a golf course in every backyard.” 

 

The Taylor’s house was Spanish in design and overlooked a golf course in a ravine.  I was very pleased to see that there were no steps up to their front door, an unusual sight for a Canadian home.  Richard and I drank a tasty Kootenay boutique beer in Ken and Rene’s luxurious, antique filled living room. Richard was introduced to Rene Taylor, Ken’s wife of twenty-eight years.  “I’m Polish too,” she said.  “My dad was captured in the first battle of the Nazi invasion of Poland, and was interred until 1945.  After the war he gardened in England for a year, then migrated to Canada and married my mum, who was also Polish.  I went to Queen’s University in rehabilitation therapy from 1968 to 1971, but met Ken in Ottawa in 1973. We were married six weeks after meeting, love at first sight.”

 

I recalled that Ken Taylor and I were born the same day on the same year, January 3, 1947 and had attended the same primary schools, Prince Charles and Queen Mary in the 1950’s.  “I remember you igniting and playing with railway flares,” Ken said.  “I thought that was very cool.”  “Yes,” I recalled. “I was a delinquent in those days.  I lived on 37 Dunbar Street, Belleville next to an older boy, Raymond Boyle, who led me astray.  My parents moved homes in 1958 to 111 Palmer Road further west to put me in a new environment, and made me repeat year 7 at Avondale Primary School.  I made new friends and turned academic in that milieu.”

 

Ken and I both attended Belleville Collegiate and went on to Queen’s University for four years. “I was a year behind you in high school, Ken,” I said, “but then you dropped out of engineering in first year university, and we were both in Arts 70, together doing Honours History.  What happened then?”  “I wanted a job,” Ken replied, “so I completed a Masters Degree in Geography.  In 1973 I worked in Ottawa for the Environment Canada, and then moved to work in Scarborough, Toronto for Trans Canada Pipeline doing environmental impact reports.  My job moved to Calgary in 1995 and reluctantly, we followed, but we all like Calgary now.  We miss the lakes and trees so we go back to our Lake Huron summer cottage every July.”

 

Ken and I reminisced, while Richard and Rene walked Coco, the Taylor’s Jack Russell terrier in cold rainy weather.  I was introduced to the Taylor children, two slim pretty girls, Shannon in year 9 who paints, and Joanne in year 11 who plays piano and guitar.  I also met a son, Alex, doing Geography in third year .He plays drums and loves ice hockey.  Alex was proud that he had visited New Zealand and Australia.  “I thought New Zealand was like Canada and Australia like the US,” Alex observed and I thought, “What an interesting comparison.  There are some elements of similarity.” Alex added, “I’m leaving soon for three months in Quebec and three months in Mali, Africa, doing volunteer work for a Canadian Youth programme.”  Alex was obviously going to be the traveller of the family.

 

David, the oldest son, a Geography Honours graduate, was away in Paris.  I asked about both sons doing Geography at University.  “I tried not to influence them,” Ken commented, “but I’m always talking about things from a spatial and historical viewpoint. Maybe that influenced them.  My history and geography degrees at Queen’s have been a great asset in teaching me to interpret the environment and in helping me to be competent in report writing.”

 

At 4.00 pm we decided to take a drive as the rain had stopped and the sun emerged.  “Go to Cochrane,” Rene said.  “It’s near the foothills west of Calgary and has the best ice cream around.” Taking highway 1A, the old TransCanada, we reached Cochrane, a small lumber milling town, which has turned to tourism and become a bedroom suburb for the rapidly expanding city of Calgary.  Ken purchased fantastic ice cream, rum and raison for me and avocado for Richard.  I tried out my two metre radio and chatted to two local hams, as we drove back to join Ken and his family for a 6.00 pm

Chicken dinner.  “Please come,” Rene had exhorted. “The kids are BBQing and we always have a large Sunday dinner with lots of guests.”  Grateful for their generous hospitality, we joined them at the dinner table and we were introduced to David, a new University of Calgary student from Toronto and Katherine, David’s girlfriend.  Although young, David had also visited the east coast of Australia.  We enjoyed watching Rene gracefully receive thoughtfully purchased mother’s day presents, and noted happy mother’s day signs in every room.  “This is a really together, loving, functional happy family,” I thought.  “I only wish more families in my schools were like the Taylor’s.”

 

Soon it was 8.00 pm. We wished the Taylor’s a good trip to visit us some day after they retire and the kids leave home.  Then we drove back to the hotel, for phone calls and a 10.30 pm turn-in.  I talked with Chris. “Did really well in the fun run today,” he chuckled feeling very satisfied and happy.  “I came in the first hundred out of five thousand contestants.”  “Got your car ok,” Ken Richmond told me from Ridgetown, Ontario.  “It’s a Buick station wagon and your hand controls are installed.  Could you fly to London instead of Toronto?” Finally, Paul Maciuk gave us directions to his farm north of Edmonton.  “I’ll be there by Wednesday lunch,” I promised him.

 

Monday 12 May Edmonton

 

It was a 6.00 am start with Richard occupied with my demanding BT procedures until 8.00 am.  I appreciated the roll-in shower at Port O’Call, noting its excellent, roomy setting and good water flow and pressure.  I phoned the University of Calgary requesting to speak with Professor Donald B Smith of the History Department.  He was out but the receptionist helpfully rang him at his home and five minutes later he thoughtfully rang me back in our room.  We agreed to meet at 10.00 am at the hotel coffee shop. 

 

Don turned up on time and kindly bought Richard and I breakfast. “I’m glad to catch up with you, and I’ve lost contact with many of my old acquaintances from the 1970’s in Toronto,” Don said.  “I spent the weekend staying in a lovely hotel in Saskatoon, giving a talk and slide show for an official opening.  I’ll go anywhere as long as they treat me like royalty.”  I chuckled.  “I thought you’d use PowerPoint, not 35mm slides, for your presentation now,” I teased, knowing that this was not Don’s style. “You could include animation, video and audio clips.” “No, not for me,” Don said.  “I’m not into using computers too much yet except for word processing. Last time I saw you were in 1988, in your camper bus,” Don added, “and before that in the 1980’s you dropped in with Lily, before we added the second story to the house.  Lily helped my wife Nancy prepare a lamb roast but I unfortunately had to leave early for a lecture.”

 

I reflected that I used to meet Don Friday and Saturday nights in the third or fourth subterranean levels of the old claustrophobic University of Toronto archives.  “Yes,” chuckled Don.  “You used to say we were really crazy being here researching, that we should be out dating girls and having a good time.”  That was true.  During my summer months doing interpretation on canoe routes with the Ministry of Natural Resources, I fanatically haunted libraries and archives all of my free time.  Don was a kindred spirit, but at least he went on to become a Professor of History, publishing a number of biographies on English migrants who became famous in Canada such as Grey Owl and Long Lance. They impersonated Indians and wrote or lectured about Indian life.  “My research on Grey Owl was painstaking and absorbed much of my early life to the deficit of other things,” Don stated.  “I felt really vindicated when I sold the film rights for the Grey Owl movie starring Pierce Bronson to Hollywood for a large sum.  It’s sad the movie was unsuccessful.”  “I canoed the Mississauga River, where Grey Owl hunted and trapped,” I told Richard, “and even saw his signature in an old fire tower visitor’s book.  Grey Owl’s books are still published and read although written in the 1920’s and carry an environmental theme that’s relevant to-day.” 

 

Don has also published a history of Canada that continues to sell well and is used as a text in many university history courses across Canada “You are becoming the ‘grand old man’ of Canadian history,” I suggested.  “The relevant life of a history professor is only ten years now,” Don lamented.  “It used to be twenty five years.  Then the historian is forgotten. Historians that we revered in the late 1960’s and early1970’s, like Donald Creighton who wrote an famous autobiography of Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A Macdonald, are virtually forgotten now.”  “Yes,” I agreed. “I remember looking at an 1870 Hansard, covered in dust in the dismal low ceiling library stacks.  There was a sign out card in the back, with only one name for a hundred year period, Donald Creighton’s autograph. I thought of taking it as a souvenir.  If he’s forgotten already, perhaps it’s better to be dating and partying rather than working all the time.”

 

“Do you think history has a future,” Don asked.  “I loved my study of history for five years,” I replied, “but I think students need to understand very clearly that there are few jobs in the area of historian.  It’s usually only a stepping stone to something else.”  “Yes,” Don replied.  “Some of my fellow professors lead students on, but I warn them that there are very few jobs available.  I feel so fortunate to have been successful in a teaching career and as a historian. I’m now lecturing two classes a term, the Canadian North and French Canadian history. I’m still working in the same area as twenty-five years ago, the Mississauga Indians.   I did my doctorate in that area and published a biography on Peter Jones, an Indian missionary there. I’m currently working on a history of the city of Calgary told from the perspective of a historical building.” “That’s clever,” I said. “How’d you get on to that idea?”  Don replied, “I was on a committee to save this building. They had no action plan as usual. My boxes of information on this building just kept expanding.”

 

“What are your children up to,” I asked.  “Peter’s in year ten and failing history,” Don replied.  “Isn’t that ironic.  Nancy graduated in art history and I’m a historian.  David is finishing primary school.”  Unfortunately, 11.30 am arrived and Don had a twelve o’clock appointment with a student who was questioning his D grade.  We had a 6.00 pm appointment three hundred kilometres north in Edmonton.  We said goodbye and drove north on the Crowchild Trail and Highway 2 freeway, a four-lane well-maintained road all the way to Edmonton.

 

With a Wendy’s chilli lunch in Ponakas, the trip took us some five hours, checking in to the West Edmonton Mall Inn at 5.00 pm.  “Your reservation was for April 12th, not today, May 12th,” a French Canadian receptionist told me. “Oops,” I said.  “I’ll take anything.”  We were lucky and dropped off our bags in room 319 with a non-accessible toilet.  We spoke by phone to my sister, Margaret’s younger boy David, who arranged to meet us at the hotel at 7.00 pm with his wife Rebecca.  Both are doctors in Naturopathy.

 

That left us two hours to explore the West Edmonton Mall across the road.  This mall boasts of being the biggest in North America and contains the world’s largest indoor pool, with Acapulco humid climate, warm waters, sandy beach and large wave machine.  There is a gigantic amusement arcade.  Watching, Richard exclaimed, “That’s way too scary for me, a really steep decline pulling into a ninety degree turn at ninety kilometres an hour, followed by a loop, a larger second loop, and a gigantic third loop where you are pinned by gravity upside down.”  There were lots of kids' rides as well. We liked the indoor hockey rink, miniature golf course, and, of course, Bourbon Street with its bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and music halls.  There were two cinema complexes boasting fifteen movies, and the Fantasy Hotel, twenty stories high.  With two levels, city blocks in length, hundreds of stores sold everything one could possibly want, particularly promoting expensive name brand products such as Wedgwood and Royal Doulton china.  We left reluctantly at 7.00 pm but were looking forward to greeting David and Rebecca after a long absence.

 

David had completed an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at Guelph University, and then graduated as a doctor from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine after four years of additional full time study, without summer breaks.  He met Rebecca, a classmate there, and they graduated together and were married June 8, 2002 on Algonquin Island.  Rebecca had obtained a Bachelor of Physical Education from Queen’s University.  David and Rebecca, slim, of medium build and very fit, turned up on time.  I remembered David driving around Guelph as a university student in a rusty $800.00 Bill Johnston wreck with the car doors tied with hockey straps to keep them closed.

 

“How about the Outback Restaurant for dinner,” I suggested.  “It’ll remind you of the two weeks Evan Johnston and yourself spent with us in Perth learning to SCUBA dive in 1990.”  The Outback amuses me. An identical menu is offered by the sister franchise, the Lone Star Café in Australia.  I was pushed to the restaurant and David and I caught up.  I opened with, “I gather that Rebecca and you are running separate practices and compete for clients.” David agreed that this competition was true and said, “Clients are fairly scarce for both of us.  It takes time to get known but I have a web site and have talked on a cable television programme.”  “Why not study regular medicine?” I enquired.  “I liked the philosophy of people taking responsibility for their own health,” David explained, “And we get an hour with the patient to assist them.  Most of the kids in my class were very bright, dedicated to become doctors and completely lacked people skills.  They didn’t impress me.”

 

“Why choose Edmonton?” I wondered.  David told me, “Rebecca and I knew we had to be in a big city to get work.  We researched the number of naturopathic doctors in every Canadian metropolis and found Edmonton possessed only ten for a population of 700,000 people, while Vancouver has three hundred naturopathic doctors.  We love Edmonton, run every day and go camping and hiking in the mountains near Jasper National Park.  We have a nice seventh floor apartment with a good view of trees. We are both very close to our job locations.”  “Yes,” chipped in Rebecca.  I qualified for the Boston marathon and came in the top five thousand out of seventeen thousand runners.  I’m currently training for a triathlon.”  I asked David about his summer jobs. “I first worked at Dixie Lee Chicken, in high school, for spending money, long before dad bought it. I was a camp counsellor, picked corn, drove trucks for a book bindery for two summers delivering to cities such as Ottawa, worked in Ridgetown Agricultural College a summer, and worked for an herbicide chemical company for a summer.  Naturopathy medicine made me realise how dangerous that job really was.”

 

Richard asked how David’s parents Ken and Margaret Richmond, were doing.  “My mum, Don’s sister, is well now after her leukaemia and is really enjoying retirement. She travels; recently visiting China for three weeks, plays bridge, volunteers in the church, and walks the dog, even bird watches.  She knows how to relax.  Dad hated retirement and elected to put himself back to work sixty hours a week running a chicken franchise. He’s really tied down by the business and can’t go anywhere very long.  Ken can’t sit still and always has to be busy.”

 

I offered to pay the bill, but had both valid visa cards declined, and didn’t have enough cash to cover the bill.  “How embarrassing,” I thought. “Sorry, David and Rebecca.”  We parted company around 9.00 and too tired to type this diary, I welcomed bed.  As it takes Richard forty minutes to get me ready for bed, I’m usually very tired and fall asleep quickly.

 

Tuesday 13 May St Michael

 

Up at 6.00 am, Richard and I visited the West Edmonton mall for a Tim Horton coffee and Apple Danish pastry breakfast.  My real objective was to check out my credit card to ensure it worked and obtain cash from the Palace Casino.  I withdrew $500.00 with a five percent service charge; pretty steep I thought but the credit card did work.  Richard and I then drove to the airport 30 kilometres south to ascertain the viability of changing our Toronto flight to London, Ontario, tomorrow.  Although Richard exited the freeway accidentally, then executed a left turn onto the left side of the road, badly scaring the horn blowing Canadian drivers, we otherwise had a pleasant trip to Edmonton International Airport.  We then followed 625 to Highway 21 through Fort Saskatchewan and Highway 45 twenty-six kilometres to Bruderheim and Sam Maciuk’s farm operated by his son and my friend Paul.

 

Richard’s mouth opened in surprise at Fort Saskatchewan.  “Look at all the refineries chemical plants, and railway cars.  They go on for kilometres.  The Polish today must be very prosperous with such wealth.  Alberta is a rich province.” 

 

Reaching the Maciuk’s farm we were greeted by Paul, who sported a long bushy grey beard, and long black hair.  Paul is fifty-three years of age and has operated the farm with his dad and mum for the last twenty-five years.  Paul, one of three children, had completed two years of engineering but graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.  After one year of Law he took leave of absence and signed up to Exodus Expeditions for a three-month truck trip from London to Kathmandu, in Nepal in September 1975.  “Little did I know I’d meet up with you on that trip,” Paul commented.  We tended to hang out together along with Ivan Delves, a Sydney lifeguard, during the daily shopping stops and longer stopovers in Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia in Turkey, Isafahan in Iran, Herat, Mazar-e-Sherif and Kabul in Afghanistan, Delhi and Kashmir in India, and Kathmandu, Nepal.  We both trekked for a week together in the Himalayas in the Tarke Geon Valley near Kathmandu.  Then, in December, I departed for a month overland tour of India while Paul did Burma, Thailand and Malaysia.  Following India, I also visited Burma, Bangkok, and Singapore before flying on to Melbourne and Perth, West Australia. I obtained a teaching job in Rockingham High School in February 1976; an hour’s drive south of Perth, rented a flat, bought a car and set up house keeping.  Paul wrote in his diary in February 1976, “Feeling a bit depressed. Received Don’s address today and I’m off to Perth, instead of returning home.” 

 

Today, Paul joked, “You’re to blame that I didn’t return home and renter law school.”  He turned up in March 1976 and flatted with me, while working nearby with Australian Iron and Steel for three months.  “That was the worst job I’ve ever done,” Paul once told me, “Pushing a broom through heavy soot eight hours a day.  I’d look like a chimney sweep after work at 5.00 pm.  Remember, we’d share a beer together.”  His job made me feel good about teaching school, although I had three classes of streamed alienated ‘basic’ level students whom I found stressing.  Paul then travelled around Australia and New Zealand for the next few months with Geoff Crowther, another friend.

 

“That was the beginning of seven years of continuous travel, backpacking all over the world,” Paul recalled.  “I did a sixteen month overland trip through Africa south to north, using boats and public transport, then turned around and did the trip back from Egypt south to South Africa.  I circumnavigated China by bus and train including Mongolia.  I travelled overland across the Soviet Union.  I picked olives in Greece and France and worked in a Kibbutz in Israel.  I took a six month overland trip through South America.”   Paul travelled far more broadly than this skimpy summary suggests. I received periodic updates from Paul and gasped at the audacity and scope of his travels.  “When will Paul quit and settle down.” I wondered.

 

Paul is a large framed muscular man who single handedly hauled my wheelchair up five large concrete steps into the family farmhouse. “Last time I did that was in the early 80’s when I drove to Calgary to meet Lily and yourself for dinner, during one of your round the world trips,” Paul recollected.  “Yup,” I replied “And I dropped in to see you here in August, 1988 in my larger camper bus, with my driver, James Aube.  James died of liver failure last year.  We stayed two days and you showed us around.”  Today I met Paul’s dad, Sam 82 years of age and his mum, 78 years of age, a former primary school teacher.  Both are in good health and mum cooked a lovely meal with Carlings Back Label beer on the side.   Paul had picked Saskatoon berries for us from farm bushes and the mum had made a mouth-watering pie.  Richard told me later, “That was the nicest meal I’ve had this trip.  It was really tasty.  The Maciuks are such a lovely family.  I was made to feel right at home and really unwound and enjoyed myself.”

 

I asked the parents how they had managed without Paul.  “I kept teaching primary school and Sam kept running the farm,” Paul’s mum explained.  “We missed Paul, but life went on.  Eventually, he did return, settled on the farm and as Sam got older, Paul took over.”  “We have 200 hectares here,” Paul added.  “It’s not a profitable farm because it’s too small but it’s enough for me.  We grow wheat and barley; have a bull and some beef cows.  Last year we suffered hale and drought and barely broke even, with crop insurance.  This year it’s a late cold spring with a snowstorm a fortnight ago.  Farming is like gambling, a risky business but I like the outdoor life.”

 

I asked Paul about the history of the area.  “This is pioneer homestead country,” Paul explained.  “Around the early 1900’s with the construction of the new transcontinental railways, the government offered free homesteads, 40 hectares in size for anyone to clear and cultivate the rich Chocolate Prairie soil.  Settlers flowed from the Ukraine, and Poland.  There are many squared log houses and barns surviving today that were constructed nearly a century ago.  The move today is to consolidate farms into thousand hector blocks to support the farm machinery needed to cultivate the land.”

 

I recalled that Paul’s sister had visited us in Perth for a week after she graduated from University.  “How’s Ella now?” I enquired.  “She’s got four children aged six to sixteen,” Paul replied.  “Here’s a picture of them in the traditional dress of the Ukraine, doing a Ukrainian dance.  They are bright and well-mannered kids.  Ella’s done ok financially with her pet food stores which she franchised some years ago.”

Following lunch, we departed for Edmonton at 6.00 pm and drove back by Yellowhead Trail, a six lane freeway through the downtown heart of Edmonton and immense CNR marshalling yards without a wrong turn.  I did get a shock when Richard ran a red light.  “Sorry, didn’t see it,” he apologized.  We reached our room by 8.00 and headed off to bed at 10.30 pm after phoning Ken to notify him of our arrival time in Toronto tomorrow.

 

Wednesday 14 May Toronto.

 

Richard showered and dressed at 3.00 am, dressed me by 4.00 am and we checked out at 5.00 am paying $253.00 for two nights at the West Mall Inn. Normal BTs had been postponed by circumstances until Thursday.   We took 178th Street to Whitemud Trail, a six-lane freeway and then missed a turn onto Calgary Trail in the dark, as the rising sun gradually painted the sky red.  “This can’t be the right way,” I swore, as our four-lane freeway narrowed to two.  I checked the map desperately.  “Oh, Oh, our flight leaves in two hours and I’m lost in a vast urban freeway system.  Ken will have driven three hours to pick us up in Toronto and I won’t be there.  What a catastrophe and I’m so hopeless!” I was getting more anxious and winding myself up into an ineffective state with this unhelpful self-talk.  “Stop that,” I told myself.  “Study the map, locate where you are, by cross referencing two street names and plan your route from there to the airport.  You’re probably already close, have lots of time and won’t miss the plane.”  I felt better, studied the map calmly and found we had continued west on Highway 16, Whitemud Trail instead of proceeding south at the interchange onto Calgary Trail. I had been overconfident and too relaxed. We retraced our route and by 6.10 am we arrived at the airport for our 8.10 am flight.  By 7.00 Richard had returned the Silver Ford Taurus and I was $450.00 poorer to Budget.  We cleared security and were boarded by a powerful lift from a tall muscular attendant by 7.45 am.

 

Flight AC106, a Boeing 321, left fifteen minutes late, and with watches advanced two hours, we flew three hours, twenty three minutes, to touch down in Toronto at 2.00 pm.  I drew Richard’s attention to the aircraft window. “Look at the traffic on the 401 freeway,” I said.  “The West may be dynamic, but Toronto has the population of four million people and is the industrial heartland of Canada.  Like Melbourne, there is a large multicultural mix.  The 401 freeway is always packed with trucks and is a daily unpublicised killing ground from motor vehicle accidents. I hate driving that highway.  SARS is ruining Toronto’s economy this year and twenty-four people have died here from the disease.” 

 

One of my signs of advancing old age has been the development of an allergy affliction.  Exposure to certain foods or air borne chemicals will fill my lungs and nasal passages with mucus.  Within minutes I am blowing my noise and repeatedly coughing, as if I had a very heavy cold.  Taking an antihistamine clears the allergy in about an hour.  My breakfast on the plane triggered a most unpleasant attack and I spent the flight coughing and blowing my noise.  Nearby passengers, thinking I was a SARS case, shrunk away in horror.

 

Fortunately, I was recuperating as we touched down.  An older man lifted me with great difficulty with Richard’s help into my chair at the air bridge and we left to find our baggage.  “Why do they employ people like that for this job,” Richard asked rhetorically. Taking our bags, we exited to find my sister, Margaret waiting. Six years ago my brother in law, Ken and his wife, my sister Margaret had visited me in Perth for four weeks.  We had enjoyed a fantastic week in the Cable Beach Resort in Broome, Western Australia, watching tropical sunsets over a wide sand beach as tourists passed on camels.  I had last seen Margaret four years ago, deathly ill from leukaemia.  Tests indicated that I was compatible as a bone marrow donor and I was generously granted sick leave by the West Australian Education Department for a school term, flying to Ontario in June 1999 with a one-week rest break in Tahiti. I thank the Canadian Cancer Society for their $6,000.00 grant to assist Lily’s and my airfare to assist Margaret.

 

A four-hour operation in the London Cancer Hospital allowed doctors to insert needles through my back and up my femur bones for removal of marrow, but they failed to withdraw the needed quantity. That failure was disappointing but the doctor was unperturbed. Two weeks later I donated blood stem cells by aphorises, a process whereby blood is removed from one vein, processed by a machine and reinserted by another vein over two half days.  My combined donation helped Margaret to change her blood type and grow new healthy bone marrow.  I joked that Margaret now possessed red wine cells, but she was producing healthy white blood cells for a functional immune system.  Margaret had totally recovered and looked radiant and healthy this afternoon.

 

I greeted my sister enthusiastically. “How are you? It’s so good to see you again, Margaret.  Thank you so much for coming to meet us in Toronto. I really appreciate it. Where’s Ken?”  “He’s driving around the parking area in circles, killing time and waiting,”” Margaret replied. “We’ve been here half and hour and you were last out. The baggage hall was empty. I’d almost given up hope.”  “Yes, I’m always last off the plane and have to wait for the attendant to reach me,” I explained. “Sorry, about that. I’m so glad you waited.”   Margaret helped Richard with the luggage ane we caught Ken on his circumlocution.  “A new car Ken! A top of the line Chrysler 300, Wow!” I exclaimed, before saying hello. Ken as always had planned ahead and problem solved in advance, pulling a trailer so that four people, a wheelchair and two suitcases would fit.   I could see why he worked fifteen years as an effective Ridgetown High School principal, and was now operating a lucrative Dixie Lee fast food chicken franchise in Ridgetown, Ontario. 

 

Ken had worked in Department stores in the 1960’s, then married Margaret, who possessed a Queen’s BA and B Ed and whom was teaching high school in Stratford, Ontario during the 1970’s.  Ken also became motivated and went to the University of Waterloo for a Bachelor of Arts, Queen’s for a Bachelor of Education, and the University of Windsor for a Masters in Educational Administration.   Both Margaret and Ken settled in the town of Ridgetown, population 3,300 to teach school, Ken in business education and Margaret as a school librarian.  They both retired from the education system in the late 1990’s after thirty years of service.  Ken, unable to sit still, now works sixty hours a week running his Dixie Lee outlet.

 

We drove the 300-kilometre trip back to his house in three hours, passing and being passed by eighteen wheel trucks.  “They truck all Toronto’s garbage to Detroit in the States,” Ken remarked, “a few hundred trucks daily.”  Arriving, Richard commented, “I really felt unsafe on that highway, with those big trucks right next to the car, shaking us, only a metre away, passing us at one hundred and twenty kilometres an hour. What would happen if a tire blew?  It’s a real risk travelling there.”

 

Richard exclaimed, when we reached 31 Myrtle Street in Ridgetown, a few kilometres South of the 401 freeway, and an hour west of London, Ontario.  “What a large lovely house, with big bay windows, sunroom, huge furnished basement, neat green lawns and a picturesque colourful garden. Look, the view out back is of a farmer’s green field and a tranquil pastoral woodlot. It feels like we’re situated right in the country. It’s beautiful. The furniture is beautiful, with china figurines and display cabinets.” “You’re right, Richard,” I replied. “This is not a starter home; it’s a retirement house, product of thirty years of work. Ken and Margaret have inherited lots of things from two sets of deceased parents.  They originally lived in a small old farm house.” 

 

It was nice to see things from my distant past.  My mother’s teddy bear, now a century old, sat in my sister’s bedroom, along with my mother’s embroidery, dated 1938, exhorting, “Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens.”  Paintings that I had grown up with, such as Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia and Mountains of Mourne, Ireland, hung on the wall.  It felt good to have arrived. It was 5.00 pm and I felt dog-tired, and Richard assisted me to bed. Ken and Margaret generously allowed me to sleep in their room, while they used a bedroom in the basement.

 

Thursday, 15 May Ridgetown Rest Stop 1

 

Richard conducted at BT procedure from 7.00 am to 9.00 am, and then sister Margaret fed us cereal and coffee for breakfast.  Ken joined us.  “Got your Buick 1995 Century station wagon from Bill Johnston outside,” he informed me.  “It’s $25.00 a day with full insurance, nothing deductible and six cents a kilometre. It’s a heavy car, full electrics and 85,000 kilometres on the odometer.  The hand controls you mailed from Australia are installed and I tried them out myself.  They work well. I phoned Bill last week and the hand controls weren’t done, so I reminded Bill that you’d be here soon. I joked with Bill saying, ‘He’s a Pugh and they get ugly when they get annoyed.’”  “Excellent,’ I said and felt really pleased.  “I’ll try it out now.  Thanks for all your help, Ken.” 

 

Margaret and Richard accompanied me to the car. The weather was unsupportive, rainy, blowing a gale, and cold, about twelve degrees Celsius.  I struggled to get into the driver’s seat and needed pushing and pulling.  Once in, it took ten minutes to figure out the electric seats, which go up and down, back and forth and tilt back and forward.  By tilting the seat back I found myself secured enough by the standard seat belt and did not need my customary racing harness support. I found my Perth hand controls securely mounted but very heavy on the acceleration. I really had to pull and lever downward to accelerate and push the control rod to brake.  The control had originally been designed in South Africa and I imported and organised their installation in Perth as a small business during the 1980’s.  My installer, Peter Krawitz copied the design and made his own hand controls, which I sold until 1988 and it was this hand control which I use on my Ford Fairmont and which I had shipped to Ridgetown.  

 

Generally, I soon found myself comfortable in the car negotiating on the right side, for the first time since I drove Lily’s Oldsmobile in 1988. I felt confident thinking, “This is easier than I thought.  It’s going great. The car is all right.  All I need is more practice.”  “Don’s doing ok,” Richard commented.  “I’m gaining confidence in his driving.  Another day and he’ll be fine.”  We picked up a chicken lunch from Ken at Dixie Lee and we drove down to overlook the stormy wind swept waves of Lake Erie to eat the take-away. I took a drive out to Rondeau Provincial Park, and we dropped in to see Bill Johnson’s wife, Margaret’s close friend.  “Got an extra seat for the Maritimes?” she joked. “I love it there, and I want to come out and stay with you in Perth.” We then returned to Johnson Motors to sign the lease papers with Bill Johnson. “When are you and Ken coming out to Australia to visit me?” I asked. Bill called over the mechanic to discuss small worries, high heat gauge, no gearshift indicator, or cigarette plug for my ham radio. The mechanic told me, “I had a bitch of a time figuring out those controls as you sent no directions.  I think I got them right.”  I praised him for his efforts.  “Everything’s looking great for my Ontario trip,” I told Ken.

 

Returning to Ken and Margaret’s house, I spoke with Allen Xxxx.  I had attended four year’s of Honours History with Allen from 1966 to 1970 at Queen’s University.

He then went on to complete a B Ed and to teach high school for twenty-five years, initially in Campbellford, Ontario, but later in Inuvik, North West Territories and Saskatchewan. Allen had married my sister in law Pat Pugh’s roommate and best friend, Carol, and they have two children, Ethan in Wawa, Ontario and Alexis who has completed an M Sc.  Allen will be travelling by car with Richard and me for two weeks. He’s handicapped with very weak eyesight so he can no longer read, drive or even cross a road unaided.  “Everything’s organised and on schedule,” I reassured Allen.  “The car’s great and we’ll see you Monday night at your house.”

 

I relaxed and Richard took care of dinner with lasagne since Ken and Margaret were catering. Ken came home and chatted at 9.20 pm.  “Had good earnings today as anything over $500.00 is profit, and I took in $1,300.00.  We catered for forty people tonight at ten dollars a head.  I should have the shop completely paid for in five years.  My dream is to sell Dixie Lee and buy a totally equipped forty-foot cabin cruiser where Margaret and I can live and cruise the waterways all summer long. A friend of mine is taking his down the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.  That’s too much work for me, but he asked me to come part way.  I’d like to eventually sell the house and get an apartment for winter and a summer cottage out in the prairies for the boys, like we owned at Oak Lake.”  I said goodnight to Ken, thinking, “I’m glad you’re doing well Ken but you worked from 9.00 am to 9.00 pm and you’re sixty years of age. I wouldn’t want those hours.” It was an early night for me and I relaxed and slept better than I have slept for weeks.

 

Friday 16 May Ridgetown Rest Stop Day 2.

 

I slept in until 8.00 AM while it rained outside, a grey cold (twelve Celsius) typically Canadian spring day.  Ken and Margaret were both up and finished their breakfast, preparing to work all day at Dixie Lee. Ken organised to have my car delivered, a haircut at home, disabled Ontario parking permit picked up in Chatham, Ontario and Canadian Automobile Association membership for me in less than ten minutes.  I thought, “Here’s a guy used to getting lots of jobs done quickly.  He’s highly organised.”  Margaret kept shooing Ken to the car so they could get going. “I’m Ken’s Palm Pilot,” Margaret joked. “I keep him organised and on time.” 

 

The day really turned into a rest day. I typed all morning, ate a quick lunch with Ken and Margaret who then rushed back to work until 9.30 pm.  I slept the afternoon away, and was awakened by Richard for a dinner of steak, potatoes and bottle of wine. Evening consisted of more typing with a 10.00 pm turn in.  Ken and Margaret, both in Dixie Lee uniforms, arrived home as Richard assisted me to bed.  “Well, a thousand dollar day,” Ken noted happily. “Not too bad. We are open seven days a week.  I don’t do as well on Saturdays and Sundays except during the summer months.”  I thought, “You’re really looking exhausted Ken, and you worked from 9.00 am to 9.30 pm and you’re working seven days a week. That’s some commitment on top of a healthy principal’s pension.”

 

As I lay in bed I thought about my sister Margaret.  As kids Margaret, a planned birth in April, 1941, was seven years older than me and we didn’t seem to have much in common.  My mother, Hazel had difficulty conceiving after Margaret and worked hard to become pregnant with me in January 3, 1947.  George happened accidentally two and a half years later in August 1949.  I can’t remember ever fighting with her, but I also can’t remember ever playing with her or doing anything in common at all. She had her own friends and I was just a baby.  “I remember baby sitting George and yourself and throwing books at you, I was so angry,” Margaret recalled. “You were about five or seven, I think.”  She was remote from me and I interacted much more with my brother George. I do remember being impressed by some things she did, such as paint by number pictures of horses, moulding and painting plaster figurines, also of horses, and neighing exactly like a horse. Margaret loved horses and did riding lessons.  I remember being impressed when she went off to Queen’s University and I visited her accommodation. I was only in grade seven at the time. Her new Spitfire two seat sport scar was most impressive and I think she let me drive it a few times as it became older.  By the time I arrived in university Margaret had graduated and was teaching high school in Napanee, Ontario for three years, where she met Ken Richmond in 1963.

 

Ken was the son of Dr and Marion Richmond in Picton, Ontario. Margaret then moved to Stratford, Ontario where she taught high school English and History for four years, getting married to Ken in 1967.  I was annoyed to miss the wedding, as I was a first year naval cadet in CFB Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. I remember buying her a new Hudson’s Bay woollen blanket as a wedding present, which thirty-five years later, she still uses.  Ken and Margaret dropped in to see me in my canoeing job in Dryden, Ontario in 1969 and that year they moved to Ridgetown to teach together. They visited me again in Wawa in 1973, the year Chris was born. David arrived in 1974. I came to appreciate Ken and Margaret more as I visited them in my early twenties on my motorcycle, riding to or from my teaching job in Wawa between 1972 and 1975.  Ken and Margaret always welcomed me enthusiastically, looked after me and I felt welcomed and at home in their small wooden framed two storey country farm house.  

 

I liked her husband, Ken Richmond, who seemed a sociable dynamic chap who, after all, went to Queen’s and became a teacher, like me.  In 1975 I left for Australia effectively terminating contact with my sister and her two babies, Chris and David.  I visited Ken and Margaret intermittently, on my trips to Canada, and they enjoyed themselves in Perth in 1997.  In 1999, I travelled to Ridgetown for a month to assist Margaret in her fight for life against Leukaemia.  That event certainly bought us more closely together.  Eventually, I nodded off to sleep as strong cold Canadian easterly winds buffeted the windows.

 

Saturday 16 May Ridgetown Day 3

 

Awake at 7.00, Richard had dressed me by 9.00 and I enjoyed breakfast muesli and scrambled eggs with Ken and Margaret.  Doug, Ken’s barber friend, dropped around the house and cut Richard’s and my hair, maintaining a constant commentary as he did so.  He was obviously a good family friend.  Then I drove Richard and Margaret to Chatham, thirty kilometres west with a population of 38,000 people.  We dropped in to see Dick, Ken’s older sixty-three year old brother, Dick’s wife, Carol and their two daughters Catherine and Sarah.  Dick and Carol both retired recently from teaching, Dick from Elementary School and Carol as head of the French Department, and they live in a large beautifully landscaped house with swimming pool on the best street in Chatham.  Their daughters are exceptionally bright, academic and highly motivated.  Catherine, who is bilingual, graduated with an Honours degree from Ottawa University, a French speaking university in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, and she has been awarded $50,000.00 in scholarships and teaching contracts to complete a Masters Degree at Carleton University. “I’m with the Institute of Canadian Studies doing their Heritage course,” she told me.  “What a coincidence,” I exclaimed. “I graduated myself with a Master of Arts Degree in Canadian Studies from that Institute in 1972.  I really enjoyed spending most of the winter of 1971, the year of a huge snowfall, sitting in the Canadian Archives third floor reading room, looking through those large picture windows over the Ottawa valley and Ottawa River and watching ice float down the river.  Good luck with your studies next year.”  Sarah, also fluent in French, has finished year twelve with a solid A average and has been accepted at Ottawa University, with a $14,000.00. Scholarship.

 

“I think intelligence skips a generation,” Dick joked. “They didn’t get it from me.”  “Perhaps it came from the mum,” I hesitantly suggested.  “I’m really enjoying my retirement,” Dick told me.  “I’m doing lots of oil painting. I promised your mother Hazel a painting of Lily of the Valley two years ago but she died. Now I feel guilty every time I see that flower.”

 

Pushing on, I drove to Blenheim, another mid-size town near Chatham.  Relaxed, I embarrassed myself by briefly pulling out on the left side of the road.  “This isn’t Australia,” I reminded myself as I hastily made a left turn onto the right side of the street.  From there we dropped into The Beer Store.  All beer in Ontario is sold by a government monopoly.  Forget competition and lower prices!  We arrived back at the house to watch the Preakness horse race. Margaret was cheering and carrying on as Funny Side, a gelding, came first and won millions.  “I enjoyed watching Margaret’s antics more than the race itself,” Richard quietly told me. Richard loves racing and gambles weekly.  Whenever he’s ahead by a large amount he invariably loses the lot.  “I need more professional instruction,” Richard says.  “It’s a mug’s game,” I think.

 

Ken arrived back from Dixie Lee at 6.00 pm and we all set down to eat dinner together, Dixie Lee chicken.  “$1,140.00 today, much better takings than average,” Ken said cheerfully.  “You work too hard,” Richard blurted undiplomatically.  “I do spend a lot of time there supervising the workers but I employ five staff and they do the hard work, preparing food and cleaning.  I chat with the customers and help them pass the time of day pleasantly. As a teacher and principal I either taught their kids or taught them.   I know most of the locals.  It’s amazing what they tell you of a personal nature.  Mrs Smith was complaining today about her poor eyesight and the forth-coming cataract operation.  I talked to another gentleman, about ‘Honey, Do,’ ‘Honey, do take out the garbage,’ and he carried on about all the jobs his wife made him do.  He had to come here to escape. Another guy came in and sat down saying, ‘My god, do you know how many hours I sat in your principal’s office at the high school.’ ‘Just sit there and be quiet,’ I replied.”

 

I thought irrelevantly, “Ken’s a high priest in a modern day secular church.  The parishioners come and confess their daily misdeeds and issues to him as they wait; Ken quietly listens and gives absolution with a tasty large chicken meal.  They all go away feeling heard and feeling better after their meal. Perhaps, Ken could add an hourly therapy charge.”

 

By 10.00 I was tired and Richard assisted me in the half hour process required for bed.  “You left a light on in your car,” Margaret told me as I drifted off to sleep.  “Be careful of that light switch.”

 

Sunday, 18 May 2003 Ridgetown, Day 4

 

We were up by nine o’clock and I relaxingly passed the morning in front of a cheerful warm gas fire, next to Ken’s feral watchful yellow-eyed cat, lamenting the slate grey sky, winds and cool outdoor temperature.  I amused myself watching a large grey squirrel, with long fluffy tail, climb a tree, then sit, chewing nuts.  “They’re just rats with tails,” Ken observed disdainfully.  “You’re lucky not to have them in Australia.”  I remembered guiltily once having killed one with my bee bee gun that my parents had given me as a young eight-year old boy.  In the backyard we observed colourful birds, blue jays, orange orioles, red robins, common black grackles and humming birds feed from a sugared water station.  Ken noted, “These humming birds migrate all the way from South America to spend their summers here.  Look how they hover stationery like a helicopter. They thrash the air so rapidly you can hear them coming.”

 

Richard investigated the wild flowers in the small woodlot out back.  He photographed a trillium, a white three petalled flower, and the national emblem of Ontario.  “They only bloom for two weeks a year,” Margaret told us. I recognised Jack in the Pulpit, purple violets, jagged teeth violets, May flowers and May crab apples.  Red and yellow tulips surrounded the house. Margaret departed for church, I ate a hearty breakfast; rubard, muesli, toast and juice and Richard packed for our departure tomorrow.

 

Ken took the morning off from Dixie Lee but had organised to take the 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm shift himself.  At 10.00 am he received a call from the store. “I think a circuit breaker has blown. The freezer’s not working.”  “Monitor the temperature,” Ken said.  “We may have to shift the food.”  Margaret organised a lovely Sunday lunch at 2.00 pm with candles, Italian wine, roast beef, asparagus, and a king prawn entrée. Roger Whittaker played in the background. The sun had broken through the clouds and the sky was suddenly blue. Spring!  I was feeling great, relaxed, happy and full. At 2.30 the phone rang.  “Doreen’s on by herself, and she’s feeling unwell.  The HennyPenny pressure cooker’s acting up.”  “I’ll take her shift,” Ken said, and headed off to the store.

 

Bob, from the horticultural society, turned up for a meeting.  I was amazed at the collegiality Ken and Margaret demonstrate with their neighbours, always joking, teasing and carrying on.  Ken and Margaret are highly social and really enjoy being with other people.  In contrast, we hardly know our wealthy neighbours in Perth with their fences and electronic gates.  “No, I won’t have a glass of wine,” Bob said.  “I want to discuss our project of setting up free public garden plots for people confined to apartments.  Many of them are divorced and running a garden plot will really improve the quality of their lives. There are insurance concerns.”  Bob joked with Ken.  “No, I don’t want to buy Dixie Lee.  I’m really enjoying my retirement, thankyou.”  Margaret surely can talk.  Their meeting carried on until 4.00 pm.

 

We found our car battery dead.  Ken’s neighbour helped with a boost.  “Don’s not had a shower in six days,” Richard complained.  “What can we do?”  It was too cold to shower outside, so I set in the garage while Richard dumped buckets of hot water on me and soaped me down thoroughly. “That should keep you fresh, awhile,” and Richard laughed as he pushed me back up the ramp into the house.  “Richard does a great job as attendant carer,” I thought.  At 5.30 pm Ken phoned from work.  “”Margaret, I’m really swamped here with orders.  Could you please come down and help out.”  Margaret headed out the door. 

 

Richard microwaved left over lunch for a tasty dinner, which we consumed with Coors beer.  By 9.00 I was in bed and heard Ken and Margaret arrive home from work.  They had finished another busy day, while I anticipated a six-week automobile trip, which would begin tomorrow.  The night however was not pleasant. My leg came unhooked from the belt loop which secured it to the bed and spasmed involuntarily and repeatedly. Of course, it upset the urine bottle.  Richard slept in another room, so I dismissed the issue from my mind until 6.00 AM not wishing to awake the whole house we had maintained a perfect track record for the last three weeks, so I was going well.

 

End of Chapter 5