Thanksgiving Weekend - London and Toronto
Queen Street West, Ontario
Mick here (I warned you - there are two of us now....):
Another long delay - but Anne has been distracting me - the woman made me do it!
When I last wrote I was waiting for Anne to arrive. Toronto airport after 1130 is not a joyous place, but it got a bit brighter when Anne appeared about 1230. My day had been long, but hers was longer after nineteen hours in the air and a 6 hour wait at Dallas. I'll let her describe the experience herself. It was great to be reunited after over a month.
By the time we had Skyped Marthese and Beth the night was even further curtailed. We had planned on breakfast in the hotel, but for some strange reason, the Thanksgiving holiday meant it wasn't open. A little matter they had not explained when I checked in. Plans changed. Check out then to airport to catch the shuttle to London. Surely there would be a range of choices for breakfast there? Not that we found. One outlet - bagels and cheese and a rather elderly fruit salad!
The only interesting matter in the shuttle trip, driven by the delightful Maurice (Mo -rees) was that we got further and further behind schedule. We were due to pick up a rental car before the agency closed at 12, and we had been scheduled to arrive at 11.30 in the shuttle. Mo-rees had some trouble taking the roll when we stopped, so this kept slowing us down. One to one correspondence was definitely not his strong suit as there were only about 8 of us in the bus. When, at 1140, I asked when we might arrive he suggested 20 minutes. When I indicated that that was very late for an 1130 advertised time, he offered me his mobile to call the car hire people - who were good enough to say they would wait until I arrived. Alex swept us away in a twinkling from the depot to Enterprise rental - who then gave us an upgrade from a compact to a Nissan Maxima - in the picture. Not content with confusing me by making me drive on the right, it had one of those proximity fobs instead of a key.
The afternoon passed in chatting, in Anne having a rest, and then we went to Mass. Having said Uncle Charlie was never at Saturday evening Mass, Alex was proved wrong when he appeared - because there had been a bird show in the parish hall that day! He provided a lovely sight as he walked hand in hand with Aunt Mary up the aisle after mass. It was her birthday that day. Aunt Mary said later she was glad Aunt Imelda wasn't there! We gave Aunt Mary a birthday present, then took Alex and Mary B out for their birthday dinner as both fall this week. It was at another of the ubiquitous family restaurant chains called Angel's.
On Sunday morning Anne and I drove into town and visited the area where we used to live in 1984/85. The place was low rent then, although our flat had been carved from an old coach house/stables directy overlooking the Thames, at the rear of a rather stately old building which had suffered the indignity of similar sub-division. Sadly the main house had burned down recently, but our old place was still ok - see the photos.
Parked the car and walked into town to re-acquaint Anne with the neighbourhood which is much changed since her last visit. I think I commented on how run down some parts of downtown are in an earlier blog. After lunch at the markets we drove across to Bernardine and Ian's where we met also Christopher and Krysia, Peter and Jen, and briefly, Tommy before heading back to Aex and Mary B's for Thanksgiving with the remnant who hadn't either stayed in Ottawa or Montreal (Kathryn and Erin) or headed to North Carolina for Alicia's wedding - Tim (his dad was recovering from surgery), Siobhan, Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary - and us. Thanksgiving is earlier in Canada than America. It is a great occasion for family gathering - and one we ought to think about in Australia. No gifts. No eggs and bunnies. Just a good meal and good company with family. This year's Thanksgiving had the added bonus of incredibly good weather.
On Monday morning we visited Tim and Cecilia (who had come back from NC with Eva and Ryan about midnight the night before) in their lovely home. The kids were getting geared up for Halloween - sorting out pumpkins to carve etc. I'm not sure we need Halloween in Austraia, even though I am sure the retailers would like it.
We had a quiet lunch, then managed to snare the last two seats on the Greyhound to Toronto, which filled and left early - with more to follow. It was a quick and uneventful trip, and after a short wait for our greeter, we moved into our apartment at 250 Wellington Rd West - number 1135. It is smack in the heart of the entertainment district, just around from Second City Comedy, where Beth and I went a couple of years ago. Views over a sub station to the Rogers Centre, the CN Tower and the lake. We had a little time before we were picked up by our hosts. We had a lovely dinner with Barbara and Mike McMorrow with whom I would be working through the week. It was great to get an advance insight into some of the develoments in Catholic education in Toronto since my last visit a couple of years ago.
Tuesday morning saw me negotiating the excellent subway system to visit Patricia Manson of the Catholic Principals' Council of Ontario with a view to the possibility of offering our Masters here. They have nothing that compares in terms of a deep appreciation of the unique challenges of Catholic educational leadership. We got off to a good start in our discussion. Then to the Toronto Catholic District School Board - to meet Barbara, and the new Director, Bruce Rodrigues. This was the day of his installation. He gave a very fine initial address. His themes were identity, alignment and collaboration. He had a strong focus on learning - which augurs well for the system. In conversation I became acutely aware of the challenges of an elected Board and being an arm of the Ministry.
During all this, Anne was otherwise engaged. She can tell you herself.
I had to dash back so that we could meet Bernardine's son, Christopher and his wife Krysia to go to see Canada vs Puerto Rico in a World Cup qualifier. We were seated (or should I say standed) among the hard core fans. At first we were unsure about being behind the mad drummer, but as the game went on it became clear that the real entertainment was the crowd, with their mix of French and English, benign and profane chants. Les Voyageurs were in fine voice! The result - nearly forgot! - nil all. It had been a very long walk to the stadium, and a 90 minute stand up game, so the taxi back was welcome.
Breakfast on Wednesday at Cora's, the same chain Beth and I had enjoyed when she was here - just a different location. Mike picked me up and I spent the greater part of the day at a principals' meeting at a westend school. It was a primary and secondary mixed gathering where they were focussing on transition issues through shared projects. They are facing very similar issues to us, but I get the impression through discussions of technology that they may not be as well funded for technology as we have been. I spoke briefly about issues in Australian Catholic education generally and LTLL in particular. It was brief, but I got some follow up discussions during lunch. Mike was called away to an emergency so I made my own way back "home", and caught up on emails etc.
Anne and I ventured out into the rain to meet my cousin Alex for tea. He is an assistant deputy minister (the equivalent of an ADG in our terms). He has responsibility for fuding and performance in the Ontario health portfolio. A very senior role. He managed to get us from his office to the subway and then to the Thai restaurant without once coming above ground! Toronto's Path was a boon in the rain. We parted at Union station - again without having poked above the surface - as he set off for an hour's train trip to Campbellville. Anne will come on in due course for her version of these few days. Brace yourselves!
Anne here- and will do my bit to fill in the blanks. Being here in Toronto is so exciting particularly as it is 15 years since I was in Canada and all of Mick's cousins' kids have of course grown up / married etc. So we have an ever expanding repertoire of family in London and to a smaller exent Toronto to catch up with if we want. It is also great to be here only two years after Mick and Beth spent time here during her semester in Ryerson University in Toronto which was such a great experience for her. Also Marthese has been here and seen the family after my time here.
My trip from Australia got off to a rather speedy start when the Hills Airport Shuttle bus came to collect me from home 40 minutes early! Luckily I was ready but the people next on the list were not and the bloke came out to the bus in his singlet- we were 45 mins early for them. There was much complaining about all this by the other passengers but I remained calm and the driver got them to the domestic and me to the international terminal on time. The remainder of the trip was uneventful and long- 15 hours to Dallas, six hours wait and then three to Toronto where I arrived right on midnight to an eerily quiet airport. It was good to meet Mick after nearly five weeks apart and we spent a comfortable night in a nearby hotel before getting on the shuttle for the two hours to London. It has been so good to catch up with Alex and Mary B and Cecilia in particular- we had so much fun togeher in 1984/85 when we lived and worked here. Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary were also happy to see us but have aged considerably of course and Uncle Joe has cancer. He is not saying much about it. Aunt Mary is very frail on her feet and everyone worries about the two of them in that two storey house they love so much. We will return to London in a few days time to spend more time with family after three days in Montreal.
Mick has filled you in very well but I want to add my bit to the soccer game mentioned above which I would not have planned but am glad I experienced. Mick and I have been to many such games in Sydney where we have sat a comfortable distance from "The Cove" with their drums and singing but to find myself in the middle of this here in Toronto was at first quite disconcerting. I also have never had to stand for an entire game! But we found ourselves in a real part of Canadian life and joined in as much as we could with the "Eh, oh, Canada, say eh, oh, Canada!" and "Qu'est ce que vous chantez?......Nous chantons Les Rouges allez!" The Canadian team of course is Les Rouges. There were various other less than complimentary words and songs which I won't repeat here but I am sure you get the drift! It was so good of Uncle Charlie's grandson Christopher and his wife Krysia- Polish/ Scottish background- to think of inviting us to this game. They live here in Toronto and both walk to work!
While Mick has been busy meeting people etc I have had a lovely wander around and walked and walked. I visited the Royal Ontario Museum on Wed which was great- especially the First Peoples, Canada, Mammals and Bat Cave-scary!
Today I have spent time on the double-decker sight seeing tour and decided to get out at the CN tower and went up it for a spectacular view. I even managed to stand on the glass floor. The elevator takes a minute to take you up and also has two smaller glass panes in it. Some of the other people coming down could not look down and were glad to get out of the elevator. I had a chicken and goats cheese panini for lunch but like I find with most things here- the servings are so large I can't eat the whole thing.A smoothie I bought yesterday came in one size only- huge! What a waste as I have to throw things away.
Tomorrow I will get back on the double decker as the ticket is good for a week and take in more of the tour and get out at Carlton St and walk along to the Primrose Hotel where Beth lived two years ago. I have not been to the Hockey Hall of Fame yet and hope to do that tomorrow also. Tonight we have tickets to the Second City show which is one minute from our unit. It is called "Dreams really do come true! (And other lies!)".
The metro system here is amazingly efficient and puts ours to shame well and truly. It is so easy and cheap to get around a large area of the city. We were on the subway last night and there was an announcement "This train is out of service" and we had to get off. No problem- it was moved and another arrived a minute later. That would have been a major inconvenience in Sydney.
For most of my time here we have had discussions regarding the fridge which decided to die just after I left.This is the fridge we inherited from Mum and Dad when we moved them out of Thornleigh in Aug 2004. This was annoying as I had attempted to make sure all was in order for Beth to take care of the house while I was gone for such a long time. A big thank you to Beth for all of this, and also to various members of my family who will help her get it upstairs over the weekend as the delivery guys said that it was too big to go upstairs in the box, and were not prepared to move it without the box. So it may need to be hoisted over the balcony. This has been done before with our lounge which was even heavier. Thanks to you all.