Thursday, 24 July 2014


No one alerted me forty-five years ago when I married Jim - not his parents, not his siblings, not his friends. No warnings were ever forthcoming.

My first concrete evidence surfaced just after Jim and I were married when we packed our little navy Volkswagon beetle, Bluebell, for a camping trip to the Maritimes and American east coast. Floor to ceiling, window to window in the rear seat was packed with compressed camping gear.  The rear view mirror provided no view out the back window, merely a reflection of tarps, shovels, lanterns, gear, gear and more gear. Seats pushed forward to create extra room for camping equipment, sentenced driver and passenger (Ouch! That would be us.) to a "loooong" journey of cramped legs.  I swear even to this day that the sides of our little blue auto bulged out with the pressure. Clothing, of course, was relegated to the teeny-tiny front trunk.

Upon first seeing our trip-ready car, my lifted eyebrows and astonished facial expression were met defensively with, We have to be prepared. And therein lies the crux of the matter.  In his youth, my lovely husband didn't simply adopt the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared, he was brainwashed with it.

Drummondville, Quebec was our first stop. Jim erected our little tent while I set up the picnic table with my cute colourful plastic tablecloth, artistically placed lanterns, Coleman stove and most importantly, wine glasses.  Wine glasses - now that's what personally call being prepared.  Like a puppy dog anticipating a walk, I  excitedly suggested an exploratory hike.  Alas, no hike yet for our Boy Scout.  Now it was time to dig a trench around our tent.  We need to what? I whined, but dig a trench we did.  We must be prepared, you know!

That night, our very first night of camping, the Drummondville area suffered torrential rains.  You knew that was coming, didn't you?  God, I think, was trying to make a point. Suffice to say, Jim and I were dry and snug as bugs in our "trenched" tent.  The following morning, as I emerged  to a puddled, rain ravaged and drenched campground, I learned to fully appreciate the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared!

Over the years, my Boy Scout has continued to be prepared.  Our sailboat boasted two, if not three, of everything - tools, flares, sail repair kits, safety harnesses......the list was endless.  Batteries?  What kind?  Our home is plentifully supplied with every type imaginable.  Christmas light bulbs?  What colour do you need? Candles? Flashlights?  Battery operated radios?  Weather warning systems?  Bottled water? We have it all!  Ah, now do you understand my brainwashing theory?

As well supplied as we are, this past winter's ice storm rocked my Boy Scout to the very heart of his prepared core.  Although Uxbridge's lights remained on, the realization hit Jim that he had not prepared us (heaven forbid!) for a loss of electricity over an extended period.  This cannot be!  And so my beloved Boy Scout took immediate action.  What ensued were months of research, product analysis, comparative shopping and electrical supply experimentation.  If I have to reset our digital clocks one more time......well, I won't go there.  At the side of our home, hooked into our hydro supply now sits a giant generator with enough capacity to power our home in the event of another devastating ice storm or 2003-style blackout. Jim can now breathe a sigh of relief; we are prepared.

I do love my Boy Scout and it can never be said that my Be Prepared life with him is dull.  I do have one urgent request of you, though - please do not mention recent damaging tornado activity in Southern Ontario.  I hesitate to imagine what Boy Scout Be Prepared reaction that discussion could potentially unleash!

Monday, 21 July 2014


Mist patches clung to every surface reluctantly releasing their hold to the early morning sunrise as another glorious summer's morn slowly revealed itself. All was silent except for the creaking of my wicker chair rocking back and forth, back and forth. Alone, I sipped fresh aromatic coffee, inhaled the fragrant salty air, and tilted my face to the gentle Cape Cod breezes.  The location was the front porch of the Old Sea Pines Inn in Brewster, Massachusetts. Although the year was 1988, I can close my eyes and still today instantly recall that beautiful front porch sittin' moment.

Perhaps this is why I so enjoy my early morning return drive from Uxpool. Without fail, rain or shine, I daily spot two older gentlemen neighbours, sitting on a porch, coffee mugs in hand, chatting up a storm. World politics?  Catching up on yesterday?  Sharing memories?  Who knows?  But front porch sittin' is their morning ritual.  I envy them those moments.

How often have we seen those old degarotype photos of families gathered for a summer's eve on their front porches?  It was not all romantic, I am sure.  Given the lack of air conditioning in that era, they were most likely escaping the heat and humidity of indoors, but with no TV or 'texting', I bet they actually communicated with each other.  

Simpler times, for sure.  As winter waned, chairs, tables and porch swings were dragged outside and made their annual reappearance.  Conversations between neighbours out for an evening stroll and families front porch sittin' were the norm.  Neighbours knew neighbours. Rainy days did not mean a day indoors for children; they simply adjourned to the front porch.  My Mother spoke fondly of rainy days creatively spent on the front porch of her parents' Toronto home.  How many sweethearts, I wonder, were wooed on a porch swing?

And then the beloved front porch all but disappeared.  But why?

For numerous reasons, not the least being provincial planning policy, "intensification" became the municipal town planner's buzz word. Narrower building lots, an auto-centric population, and buyers demanding livable square footage led to what I refer to as the "garage protruding suburb". No architectural room for front porches here!  

Rear patios and back decks, offering privacy and a place to BBQ, became the norm. Privacy for homeowners returning from stress-filled working lives, became further ensured by the construction of wooden six to eight foot high rear yard fences.  So who now needs a front porch anyways?

Interestingly, town planners have observed two statistically significant and rising phenomena in "garage protruding communities". A neighbour to neighbour disconnect has taken place. Familes nolonger know the people around them.  Social interaction is at an all time low while crime rates are on the rise.  Go figure!  Who is watching?  Who knows whether strangers at the house across the street should be there or not? 

Thankfully, old values often prove to be more resilient than one might imagine.  The resurgence of the front porch in modern communities is a welcome example.  In an effort to boost greater interaction within our now more densely populated neighbourhoods, town planners are returning to front porch designs.  Markham's Cornell neighbourhood is a fine example.  Lot lines remain narrow, but garages have been relegated to rear yards with lane access and front porches now grace each home within the development.  Both phases of Cornell have been a raging success.

I saw this sign in a Port Perry old sign shop and I love it.  It says it all!  Now, excuse me, but it's time for some personal front porch sittin'.

Monday, 14 July 2014


For years, I would have been hard-put if asked about my favourite drive.  How could I possibly choose? The stunning Amalfi Coast of Italy with sun-bleached towns clinging to cliffsides, all dropping dramatically to the turquoise Mediterranean Sea is beyond compare.

But then the mystically beautiful Scottish Highlands draped in haunting mists would come to mind ...

...only to be replaced by memories of the relentless Altantic battering the Bathsheba Coast of Barbados.

How could I ever choose?  Well, I don't have to.  Of late, a twelve kilometre stretch of country road in good old Ontario has surpassed all other drives in my imaginery mental contest.

Uxbridge's giant TSC country hardware store, specializing in products for farm and country home living, is an imposing reminder that our charming little town sits smack dab in the middle of farm country. Driving merely one kilometre west of home puts Jim and I on a stunning stretch of Durham Road 8 between the Town of Uxbridge and the York Durham Townline.  Journeying into the city or York Region, Jim will take Brock Road south to the 407.  Not me.  I head west on Durham Road 8 towards the 404.  Any excuse to cover this route! Quite simply, I love this drive.

Like giant swells at sea, Durham Road 8 undulates, dropping drivers into valleys past fields of corn, hay bales and wheat.  Then rising as if cresting the next wave, the road, passing stands of giant fir trees, affords vistas across the gently rolling Uxbridge hills.

Quaint little hamlets, Roseville and Siloam, dot the side of the route.  Signs indicating Hop Hill and Rise 'n Shine Stables remind one that this is also horse country.

Rain, sunshine or snow, my route never ceases to generate a smile.  I most love leaving behind the York Durham Town Line and turning east on "8".  The giant green Welcome to Uxbridge sign cheers, You are on the final leg! Instantly reduced to distant memory are teeth gnashing traffic snarls, endless gridlocking stop lights and noise, noise, noise.  Ahead lie rolling green fields, sweet air, and a calming peace.  The stiffness between my shoulder blades disappears, my blood pressure, I am sure,  drops and my smile returns.  Yup! THIS is my favourite drive.