Our collection of photos from 2020 is here.
   
    2020  Saturday, Nov 15th.  No snow yet, but we've had one frost.  The next one is forecast for two days hence, but after that the forecast shows temperatures trending upward until the end of November.

    I keep playing every day.  There's not much else to do.  I'll keep trying to convince myself to go for walks now that the gardening and yard work is over for the season.  During a zoom call, I listed some of the instruments I practice regularly, and Heather asked me "What are you trying to prove?", which seemed like an odd question.  She has grand-kids and horses to keep her busy, and strives to become a good dressage rider; I don't have anything like that going on in my life.  These are my musical toys that I "play" with, and they address the "I wish I had learned" issues.  The goal for me is competence and fun, and when the pandemic is over I want to be able to play with various kinds of musical groups.  Piano is still my most in demand instrument in terms of playing at the community centre or at the yacht club; but I already know how to play the piano. All the new instruments present fresh, interesting challenges, including the stradella bass system on the accordion, and the various techniques styles of the 5 string banjo.  I'm best at single string and 2 finger style, but I keep plugging away at 3 string, at melodic style, and clawhammer.  I've been fascinated by Jens Kruger in recent months, and lately by Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn.  I hope I won't be too old to put the new chops to work playing with other people by the time the pandemic lifts.  At the very least, I should be able to take them camping when we can finally hit the road in our little T@B trailer, and join other musicians around the campfires, or at regional fiddle festivals.
    There's no fresh news, though.  We're hitting fresh daily high case loads of covid19 in Toronto, in Ontario and across the country.  I watch the political drama in the U.S., and continue to be astounded at how selfish, arrogant and incompetent the outgoing president is.  We learn a lot about the world by watching documentaries on Netflix and from other sources; lately, challenges of the global food system, and gene editing technology, solutions and risks.   

    Sunday, October 25th.  After a glorious burst of heat on Friday, temperatures are suddenly lower at night and will remain so.  Daytime highs will be at 30 year averages, although night time temperatures are forecast to remain about six degrees above the thirty year average, so that's a bit of silver lining.  Growth has slowed on our plants and with the risk of frost, I decided to harvest the remainder.  We pulled three buckets of tomatoes, mostly cherry; three baskets of peppers that look like nature's smarties, and the final two dozen squashes.  We snipped the dahlias, so we have red blossoms in four vases around the house, and some orange buds that I hope will open.  I still have beans to harvest, and carrots, but we can continue to pull them gradually.  Maybe, like turnips, they only get sweeter after the first frost.  They are below surface, so only the tops will be damaged in a light frost.  We still have swiss chard to pick and bag.  Then I'll have to spend a few days pulling old plants, and moving some of the pots.

     Yesterday marked the end of a flat, hollow, black and white sailing season, bereft of joy or pleasure.  I did my six hour shift on the tow boat with Don for haul out beginning in the pre-dawn hours.  We only had four boats to tow in six hours, and the total lift was only 103 boats.  I came home for lunch and a nap and went back to have my own boat lifted at sundown - No Egrets was #74 of 76 boats lifted on Saturday.

     We had our flu shot - I felt awful for a day afterward, which is unusual for me.  It was the higher efficacy senior's dose, we hope and believe.  I had a slight fever with chills for a short while as well. 

     We still have no vaccine for Covid19.  We are into what some scientists call the "third surge" in the U.S. and world-wide, still cresting, with a much higher number of cases than the first two surges.  In some places they've given up on contact tracing because it is impossible to stay on top of the transmissions.  Canada had a pretty subdued middle curve, but we are not being spared in the third surge, and we have had to go back into "modified stage two" lock down.  The only good news is that the medical system has learned a lot about how to treat the illness, and although still miserable and with long range debilitating effects for some patients, there are fewer deaths and shortened hospital stays for most.  The first vaccines may appear in Canada in January, but by the time they get them out to the whole populace it may be spring or summer.  There's a chance that we'll be free next summer to launch the boat, enjoy our clubhouse, make a smaller garden and take our little T@B trailer on the road, and even resume our international travel. 

     I'm struggling with a feeling of frailty, some vertigo and unsteadiness on my feet, and reduced strength in my musculature, and chronic pain in my left shoulder, in particular.  I hope it is only age, but I found it difficult to climb in and out of the tow boat.  Granted, the water level was low and the docks were very high compared to most years, especially because we now have a new dock elevator system courtesy of Charles Dyer and his crew.  It is a well designed, inventive system to raise our docks in the spring if we experience another high water level.  Water levels were above our slips in 2017 and 2019, and reduced our boating season in both years.  This year Covid kept us from enjoying our club, so it has been three bad years in four.  The season is already short enough here in the north in a regular year.  Some members consider throwing in the towel on boating.  I am considering a return to a smaller, tow-able 22' sailboat and a return to Scarborough Bluffs Sailing Club.  Two of my old boats are still there; perhaps I'll just buy back one of those.  A smaller boat is a little easier to handle, clean and maintain; like a small sports car, low and close to the ground, it is just as much fun in its own way as a larger sailboat, although admittedly not as spacious for overnights.  But it can be used earlier and later in the season, there's no need for crane fees twice a year, and it can be towed to more interesting sailing areas.  I've determined that I'll have to do more exercise, weight training indoors and walking outdoors even through the winter, to try to stave off weakness and incapacity.  As Clint Eastwood's mantra recommends, "Don't let the old man in!"
     I'm not sure how else to deal with being stuck here in the house for the third winter in a row, this time with no community bands and gatherings going on.  Solitary fitness (no gyms), solitary musical instrument practice (Thank God for youtube and the internet), and if that isn't enough, I might start recording a few more tunes or writing some songs or stories.

    September 30th.  Covid case counts are rising again.  The second wave of the pandemic is upon us, and Quebec is declared a "red zone".  My family have all become "dog people".  The weather remains mild, which is good because it is pleasant but also because a study has just correlated cold, rainy conditions with increased transmission of viruses.  The garden continues to produce lots of cherry tomatoes, squashes, and carrots.  Cabbages and kale have been set back by "cabbage lice" but are only edible with cleaning.  Slender late harvest beans are not very good - too fibrous; but there are still lots of "painted lady" or "scarlet runner" beans.  The winter ahead stretches out with no relief in sight - no travel, no social activity, and no sailing.  There was no point putting up the mast for such a short season, and the garden kept me from thoughts of cruising to other clubs, which were, in any case, closed due to Covid.  If it weren't for music, I'd have very little to relieve the boredom.  I don't read much although I have tons of books backed up.  I don't write although I have occasional creative urges.  The world just seems too bulging with creative distraction to bother tossing my drops of whimsy into that ocean of content.  The internet has given us daily access to a fire hose of ideas and events, and we drown in it.  The flip side is that it has given us better connection with family and friends through Facebook and Zoom.  Free music lessons through Youtube helps to inform and motivate my efforts with the nine different instruments that I cycle through.  When the pandemic is over I'll be able to take a handful of instruments on the road to attend festivals and play at campgrounds and other venues, including my community centre bands.  Until then, I just have to keep building chops on the instruments, gathering more repertoire, enjoying my yard, and trying to put the ever-present isolation out of mind.

    August 25th.  I gave away my upright piano yesterday.  It was a sad moment for me because it was a good solid Nordheimer that I'd paid to have restored.  It had an entire new set of hammers and some other tweaks sixteen years ago, and I spent one Christmas break refinishing the case in my shop at Samuel Hearne.  Within the last few weeks I learned to replace old bridle tapes, and restored it once again to playable condition.  But big acoustic pianos are like white elephants these days.  People give them away for free.  They were probably doing that back then, too.  I was foolish to spend the money on having it repaired.  But now I have a more open dining room with Jack Heeren's old clavinova in it instead, plus my Roland in the basement, and the community centre has a good Yamaha for me to use for my musical activities there.  I really like that Yamaha electronic piano.

     Things are only gradually opening up in Ontario, and particularly in Toronto.  I often do the math to estimate my risk of exposure to covid19, and I feel quite reassured between the math and my social distancing discipline, but my musician friends appear to remain thoroughly freaked out and did not show up for an outdoor gazebo play along that I tried to organize.  That left me with a bad taste in my mouth for trying to do volunteer organizing for local musicians, since at least 23 saw the message, one said she'd come, and no-one did.  No-one else responded either way.

     However, I met my distant cousin Jeremy Campbell at the gazebo.  I tuned his mandolin for him and gave him some books to help him on his way.  That was pleasant.  On my own, I'm playing the two banjos more and more, and to a lesser extent I'm flat-picking the new Yamaha guitar, and running fiddle tunes about once a week on each of those.  I'm playing the fiddle and the accordion.  I discovered Jens Kruger of the Kruger Bros., had my consciousness expanded by his use of a 5 string banjo to play much more creative technique and repertoire than the bluegrass I'd only ever associated the instrument with, including classical pieces and his own classical compositions.  So I put my finger picks back on and I'm working my way through his set of fifty beginner videos for 5 string, as well as learning new tricks on my tenor banjo.  I've become quite good at melodies on the 4 string, tuned in fifths, so playing lead in Scots/Irish, bluegrass and Appalachian tunes has become easy, and I can sight read the notes at pretty good speed; now I'm beginning to use three and four string chords to beef up my playing in addition to the melody, which makes 1920's jazz tunes sound much better.  I'm keeping my eyes open for another tenor banjo - I have a set of strings for Irish tuning that I'd love to put to good use.

     I've played tennis once with Don and Jim, but Paul is still hermetically sealed up in his house.  He held a rehearsal of his band on his driveway, and we attended.  Yo Vanderkley was his vocalist.  I spend most of my outdoor time in my garden, where the hottest July in 84 years has resulted in an explosion of produce.  We eat kale and cabbage salad with tomatoes, cooked swiss chard and green beans for every supper meal.  I have a couple of dozen squash to harvest when it cools down enough to want to use the oven.  We have harvested a lot of okra, and we have a lot of cabbage and carrots to cook in the fall as well.

     We haven't been able to leave the house to go camping in our new T@B trailer, but there is pretty good progress toward one or more vaccines, so by spring next year I'm fairly confident that we'll be able to plan a trip west.  We'll set the garden up with soaker hoses and a timer for Ian to turn on when needed.  I'll make sure the front garden also has soaker hose, pop some peppers in there among the perennials, and walk away.  I'll set up the new gazebo frame from Jackie Davies.  I thought we'd have fires in our back yard this summer but the city has banned use of fire pits, so we may end up giving away much if not all of our firewood.  I'm planning a little bit of surreptitious fire on cold crisp fall evenings, though.  The smoke is no more than from wood burning stoves, which many people still have.  Our neighbour even heats his garage that way, where he repairs cars for people.

     All our family members remain well.  Sol's condo sold quickly on July 17th, and the estate process is almost over - there's light at the end of the tunnel.  Deborah does regular video chats with her mom and siblings, and our weekly Sunday zoom meetings with my family continue.  The pandemic causes some boredom, but also some freedom from stress.  It is a calm time, and a time for dealing slowly with downsizing, and developing chops on my new instruments, which is a pleasure for me even if I can't play with others until next summer.  I'm looking forward to campfires, fiddle camps, all that sort of thing.

     June 29th.  Our wedding anniversary is two days away on July 1at, and that's also Canada Day, so we normally get free fireworks on our anniversary, but this year we are still in partial lock down so we'll have to watch them over the internet.  We've slowly begun to see more people.  We've had dental cleaning, and friends at a safe social distance in our back yard.  Deb shops and has resumed her food bank volunteer work every Monday morning.  She has no direct contact with clients, who come in to pick up their food on Wednesdays.  I've worked hard every day in the garden, and haven't played any music for the entire month of June.  I've promised myself that I'll begin again in July. 

     We've eaten well - callaloo stew, all sorts of fresh greens (kale, lettuces, green onions, etc) and we have blossoms on the tomato and bean plants, so those will be fruiting soon.  I saw a small zucchini beginning in one bin.  I have way too much kale - I planted seed that said Savoy Cabbage on the package (from Benton Seeds) but the result was nothing but kale, but I'd already planted kale elsewhere.  The swiss chard is having a terrible year - I have to treat it daily with soap and oil for leaf miners and fungus. 

     We had to face up to a big project, clearing up an area under the trees and ripping out Virginia Creeper which had spread everywhere.  I've been burning off brush, sifting soil for a few small new garden beds, and stacking the wood pile in fresh stacks.  We closed our fireplace a few years ago and took down the chimney, so we don't really need firewood but we'll burn off what we have slowly in the fall when the evenings get cold, out on the back patio.  We've had some hot days so far, but haven't run the air conditioners yet - fans have been enough to deal with it.  We'll only need air conditioning if the humidity becomes intolerable.  That usually only happens at the peak of summer for a couple of weeks.

     We launched No Egrets finally on June 13th.  We haven't put up our mast; it might just sit there at the slip for the year, as "summer storage".  We can use it like a cottage, but the clubhouse is off limits during the pandemic lock down, except for the washroom.  We were hoping to drive west to visit family, and camp in our new little T@B trailer, but inter-provincial travel remains problematic so the trailer may be stuck in our driveway all summer.  International infections continue to rise exponentially, and the worst country of all is the U.S., with which we share "the longest undefended border in the world".  It is a leaky border, and although Canada has flattened the curve and contained the contagion, we fear truckers, commercial travelers and air travel.  If the trailer stays parked, we might step our mast for a few weeks of sailing if we get bored, but haul-out could be as early as October 12th this year.  A small trailer-able sailboat would certainly be a better asset this summer.  You can drop it in the water anywhere that there is a ramp, and not worry about campgrounds being closed.  Next year we'll try to sell the Mirage and find another trailerable boat that we like.  We might go back to SBSC.

    June 2nd.  I kept working on learning to use the tools in Audacity.  I redid Any Time, then recorded another nine songs, shared them with people, and opened a Soundcloud account to house them, so that I can simply direct people there.  I might do a few more, but I'll also spend more time on piano, and on doing some videos.  Stacking audio tracks gives me an excuse and a motivation to pick up my instruments and practice them. 

     We remain in lock-down.  It has been three months now, with only one face-to-face visit with Ian and Ursula.  We've taken the tarps off the sailboat and will launch on June 13th, which will give us somewhere to go, at least, although we may just use it as a cottage this year, while we also spruce it up and collect photos to advertise it next spring. 

     When campgrounds open up we'll take the T@B out on the road.  We'll put in a porta-potty and we'll be independent and isolated from others, not dependent on guest rooms in family homes, but we'll still be able to see family face to face and have outdoor campfire visits.

     The garden is in.  Deb planted the last leafy greens seedlings yesterday, but I still have peppers to pot, and far too many cabbages and bush beans.  We'd never eat what I have growing.  I have enough pots but need more soil, and perhaps more space on the driveway.  Until the covid19 lock-down and the possibility of food insecurity this summer, my intention was to have a much smaller garden, but I decided to plant all my old seed, which was just gradually getting older and less viable, plus all the beans from last year.  No point having it hang around indefinitely.  If we garden next year, we'll begin with fresh seed.  Bill Chandler gave me a "stock tank", a 300 gallon trough that had been drilled for drainage.  They're about $500, new, and would make a great duckling pond.  This one could have the holes plugged with epoxy, but I decided to build a "hugelkultur" out of it, with brush and grass clippings, and a tarp over that pile, plus three flexible pipes that I can drape clear plastic over during the winter in order to have a green house/seedling shelter in the spring.

    Our family zoom meetings, with Lissy's help, have become a weekly Sunday afternoon event.  We've learned to wear silly hats and share garden photos from our computers.  I put a board on my front porch rail and put a strip of birdseed on it, and got photos of our local blue jay and a male and female cardinal to add to my garden photo show.  We aim for a one hour weekly meeting but they usually stretch a little longer, and the most recent one lasted for two hours - some people came late, and others left early.

    April 17th.  We remain under full lock down because of the novel corona virus.  I watch the news daily.  The temperatures have been stubbornly lower than seasonal, but the garden is slowly coming to life. I have pepper seedlings in the window and have just begun my tomatoes, which should be able to go outside in six weeks or less.  We stopped our volunteer work.  It is better, at our age, to let younger people who have no jobs at the moment step up to do food bank deliveries and organizational tasks.  We are in a riskier age demographic if we were to contract the virus.  Deb still leaves the house once or twice a week to shop, or get some take-out food.  She wears her gloves, the homemade masks she has sewn, and her visor, and she practices hand washing and door handle and steering wheel disinfection, disinfection of packaging, etc. 

    I am very lucky that I collected instruments before this crisis came along.  I never leave the house or the yard but I have lots of musical toys and I have finally figured out how to record myself playing them in multiple tracks on my old multi-media computer in the basement, using Audacity.  I made a recording of Any Time with multiple tracks but it was awful, mostly because the mic input was too hot, I believe.  I didn't save the tracks separately so that I could reconstruct it with adjustments, so now I'm in the middle of a second attempt.  This time I'll keep all my tracks in a "project folder".  That way I can build the song with different instrumental leads and just keep what sounds good, and I can fine-tune volumes of different tracks to create dynamics.

     Between the musical hobby, the internet, no rowdy kids around, Deborah's meals, and the gradually improving temperatures outdoors, my life is quite serene.  The news depresses me but I'm becoming a little inured to that.  One becomes desensitized to things one can't do anything about.  Being under "house arrest" is not a happy circumstance, and I dream of the day when we'll be able to take our trailer and drive west, but we're so much better off than people who've lost income, businesses, and sometimes friends and relatives.  Yesterday Ron Quinn from HYC died of Covid19, at 79, but it hasn't touched any of our family or closest friends yet.  Even when the lock down lifts, I anticipate being more "stand-offish" than I used to be, playing music into a computer, and continuing to stay clear of loud, crowded places.  I'll probably play music at the community centre three times a week, but we have good physical separation there and I'll disinfect the keyboard, wear gloves and wash hands a lot, etc.  Once travel restrictions are lifted I'll just let the groups continue without me and Deb, as we look for blue skies westward.  And southward, next winter.  Our sailboat launch is cancelled indefinitely until we have clarity on our lock down status; the boats could remain "on the hard" all year.  When the weather gets warm, it might be an idea to pick up another trailer-able sailboat that we can launch from a ramp.  I was leaning in that direction again anyway, so that might be a goal: to clean up and advertise the Mirage and get another CS22 or something of that size.

     We had a family Zoom meeting on Easter Sunday, and we'll check in again with each other this coming Sunday.  There might be a little music.  Zoom is a good tool that came along just in time.  People can join when they can, and leave at will, and it is a large family gathering, even if we are still at a distance from each other.  What a great thing it would have been sixty years ago when we went to Northern Rhodesia.  My parents had to write Air Mail letters and struggle through the occasional long distance phone call with a poor connection and static, to maintain connection with family.  Dad used to make reel to reel tape for my grandparents and other family members so that they could hear our voices, and vice versa.  Sometimes we'd sing into the tape recorder.  Then they mailed the tape reels to each other by parcel post.

    April 3rd.  Rob died on March 24th.  Lissy set up and hosted two virtual commemorative gatherings on April 1st, one for family and one for friends.  She wasn't able to travel for a funeral, and funerals cannot be held these days.  We are in extreme lock down due to the spread of Covid19, which threatens to overwhelm our health care system.  100,000 plus deaths in the U.S. are forecast, and we've seen mass mortality in Europe.  The economy is shattered, portfolios are cut in half and dividend income has slowed to a trickle. 

    We spend our days inside the house.  We've left about three times a week to deliver food bank supplies to shut-ins, and Deborah still shops, but I mostly just rely on the internet for social and family connection.  I practice, and review jazz and blues piano styles.  I haven't had much interest in my cornet, clarinet or fiddle lately.  The daily temperatures are gradually rising and we've been able to spend a little time in the yard each day, getting the yard and driveway in shape for the coming season.  I've started the hot pepper seeds and will start the tomato plants next.  We don't know whether garden centres will open.  Today we plan to turn the T@B around so that the door faces the house, and we can slowly begin preparing it for when travel can resume in the summer.  People are told not to travel now, and provincial parks and campgrounds are closed.  We'll clean up the back patio and get it ready for hanging out, and maybe do a BBQ just for ourselves. Everything else is completely on hold: there is no spring launch for our sailboat, no tennis club opening, and no community centre programs including our musical gatherings.  Yesterday we did a zoom meeting with Lara and sang Happy Birthday to Xavier, who was very talkative.  We can't meet in person with any family, but virtual meetings have increased from virtually zero to a few.  It is becoming the new normal, the only way for most people to connect with family and friends.

    March 16th.  On Leap Year Day (Feb 29th) we sat six feet from the stage at BPYC enjoying a performance of the Wintergarten Orchestra.  The front man was an excellent singer and showman, an actor who brought his dramatic and comedic skills to the band.  That week we also began collecting and rehearsing songs we could do as a duo, and on March 4th we performed and led a sing along at Chester Village nursing home.  We prepared about 35 songs but only used about 18, and added one on-the-spot request, so we're ready for a return engagement, and we were asked to return in late May. 

    However, in the meantime the world has been hit by a tidal wave of closures to all businesses and public facilities including nursing homes, to limit the spread of covid19, a novel coronavirus.  The closures are intended to "flatten the curve" and give researchers a chance to come up with a vaccine or promising drug responses, and to keep from overwhelming our hospital facilities.  We expect to be hunkered down in our cottage for a few weeks, and I'm splitting my time between the internet and practicing music: contra dance tunes on keys, accordion and fiddle, and vintage jazz on keys, banjo, clarinet, cornet and guitar.  Our community centre music groups are on hiatus for a month.  We bought a new Kmise baritone uke for Deb from Amazon.  It arrived in a day, and is a pretty good instrument, but I did have to file down the fret edges all along the neck on both sides.  It came strung and tuned gCEA so I swapped the g string for a low G, and left it like that so that Deborah can use all the chords she already knows.  It sounds pretty good and is loud enough to complement my fiddle, which was my goal.  Now we might zero in on a few tunes we can perform at a yacht club or around a campfire. 

    We have entered a slow time, and I shift from being vaguely uneasy and troubled to being content with self-isolation, but Deborah is still volunteering at the food bank this morning, and still shopping when she feels that she must.  We have gloves we can wear and can throw into the laundry, and we follow hand-washing protocols, to which I've added face-washing protocol, since nobody can really break the habit of touching their face several times an hour, which is how the virus gets into sinuses and then lungs.  I suspect we'll cancel our Noisy Parkers rehearsals, but still meet at the yacht club, but all attempts to unearth other musicians at the club have so far been a waste of time.  I don't feel like hitting the bars and open mics, and I don't want to make the commitment of joining a band, although I wish I was working with talented musicians that are on the same wavelength.  Probably I'll just remain hunkered down until we can sell Sol's condo, and once that's over with we'll start traveling.  Our only music may be a campsites with other travelers.

    The stock market tanked worse than in 2008, on fears of an economic collapse due to all the shut-downs.  It was down 40% at one point, with no guarantee that we've hit bottom, but it isn't an immediate concern in our house because we were only living on our pension money anyway.  Dividends from O&G stocks may dry up for a while, partly because the Saudis and Russia picked this moment in time to have a price war and drive down prices to hurt each other and U.S. shale production.  There will be bankruptcies, no doubt, and tremendous job loss in all industries across the economy until this can be overcome.

    So that's it: sleep, eat, surf the internet, play music, and start some seeds, beginning with hot peppers. When the days warm up, do yard work and prep the boat for launch, continue sorting and downsizing the contents of our cottage, and prep the T@B for spring and summer travel.  The garden will be mostly basic maintenance this year, so I don't have too much work ahead of me, which is a good thing because we haven't had requests from helpers this year.  I assume the global pandemic has them all thinking twice about travel.

    Feb 24th.  On the 22nd I played for the fundraiser Coldest Night of the Year with the Noisy Parkers.  It went well.  We had to rehearse the night before, and drive downtown for both nights.  The music has been fun, but I'm happy that most of it happens close to home.  A job action of city workers threatens to shut us out of the community centre this coming weekend, but there are still the Elderly Bros and the Noisy Parkers.  If our Wednesday night play along gets cancelled I can go play at HYC. 

    We're still waiting for the court approval for Deb's executor position so that she can list Sol's condo.  We were told it might arrive by the end of February. 
I sold the 7/8 (57 cm) Skylark fiddle this evening.  I bought it for $7, broken, and bought a decade's worth of hide glue from Lee Valley because I couldn't buy it in a smaller quantity anywhere.   I carved a new bridge and put new strings on it, and sold it for $100.  After the cost of materials, that was probably 200% profit, but not a handsome hourly rate for the time and travel I put into it  It is just a fun hobby.

    We managed to organize our first get-together of a contra dance band with Wilfred and Elisa, with their Irish flutes and concertina.  I can't play the fiddle well enough and fast enough on the tunes they wanted to play, which were not the ones I'd already learned, but I played keyboard, and I'm able to play melodica or accordion fast enough to accompany them.  We'll get together again every two weeks, and eventually play for a dance.

    Other than that, I'm just trying to learn how to grow old.  It takes a lot of thought.  Encroaching infirmities threaten the activities I love to do, including hips and back that make tennis not as fun, arthritis and "trigger fingers" that threaten to impede my keyboard and fiddle playing.  We're communicating with a young helper from Bolivia who'll begin a three month course at a language school in Toronto next week.  She might stay with us for two weeks in April or May.  We'll get the yard cleaned up, the house in order, the boat launched, and Sol's condo listed, and then maybe we'll have freedom to travel somewhere.

    Jan 20th.  The snow load hasn't been intolerable, and the winter has been relatively mild.  It's cold right now, but I'm beginning to feel used to it and I'm a bit ambivalent about trying to get away.  I'm still enjoying my musical groups, and come home from each one a bit tired but happy, maybe with a bit of a music high.  I spend hours each day getting better at fiddle and banjo, and playing my vintage jazz repertoire on those plus the piano, the cornet, the accordion and the guitar.  It keeps my chops up and I'm enjoying my improvement, especially on the fiddle.  We might find it difficult to get motivated to leave town, even for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which has kind of fallen off my bucket list.  There are lots of reasons not to be there right at that time anyway, when the town is a little crowded and crazy, and accommodation is expensive and difficult to secure - even campground accommodation.   Youtube and the internet are wonderful inventions - we don't have to go there to experience the street jazz.  When the weather improves here, we might get the garden started and then travel west, watching for places where we can play music with like-minded musical travelers: fiddle camps, campfire jazz, etc.  A side trip to New Orleans might happen then.  In the meantime we have musical momentum and a critical mass of players who join us here in the SW corner of Scarborough at our community centre music groups.  I have three of those happening each week, plus the yacht club group and the Noisy Parkers.  They keep me from getting bored..

    Jan 10th: we picked up our T@B trailer today.  It is tear-drop shaped but bigger than I thought.  It is sixteen feet long and has 5.9" headroom, which is enough for me to stand upright.  It is too heavy to tow with the RAV, but fine for the Sierra.  It is under 2000 lbs, even loaded.  Photo in our collection, link at the top of the page.  And we saw our first white squirrel today.  Possibly albino, but equally likely a rare genetic variant of the Eastern Gray squirrel, with white coat but normal black eyes rather than pink ones.

2019 - photos from 2019 are here.

    Dec 29th:  I thought I had seven fiddles.  So I lined them up on the couch for a "family photo". which I've uploaded to the 2019 folder.  Turns out I have eight.  How does that happen?  Time to cull the herd?  Deborah asks,  "How is that even a question?"  They've come into the house at a rate of one a month for the past ten months, and I've already sold two or three during the summer and fall.  And one mandolin.  For the last couple of years it was a steady stream of guitars, and this year it has been now fiddles.  Some people do model airplanes.  I was tempted to get into accordions, but toured the workshop of a guy who fell for that, and I was cured of my misplaced desire to open and fix them, although I still enjoy the one I kept and continue to play, after buying and selling three others.

    Mind you, five fiddles on the couch are basic entry level student violins, and one is an antique collectible.  So I may end up with three when all is said and done.  The other photo is the latest one, which arrived in pieces but cost me only $7.  It's now the one at the extreme left.  It caused me no end of grief with gluing up, solving the slipping pegs issue, etc, and it is worth no more than $50 after all that, but I learned a few more things.  The antique one second from the right has had its top off and glued back on again, and cracks repaired.  This was another good learning experience.  It was given to me for free, as was one of the other intermediate level student violins.  Two of them I bought from a photo at an online auction for $11 each, case and all.  And one of them was a swap for a free guitar that I rebuilt after my friend put his foot through it in the middle of the night.  The dark brown one, which is loud and perfect for playing at a campfire or in a bluegrass group, was a Value Village $25 purchase made in Canton, China, and the Stentor 3/4 size with finger placement stickers on it was about $40 complete and in perfect condition.  Including bits and pieces I ordered from Amazon to complete the fiddles, I'm probably out of pocket about $100, not much more.  Many came with extra strings, rosins, and shoulder rests, but I'm short one case and two bows, at the moment.

    Dec 14th:  We waited day by day for word that the gov't has approved Deborah as executor of her father's will, giving her the right to sign a listing for his condo, only to learn early this week that the courthouse in Brampton is still working on submissions from July and August, so ours probably won't be processed until March.  So we might be able to escape to someplace warm for a few weeks, and then return in time to deal with it.  New Orleans Mardi Gras in February has been on my to-do list.  In the meantime we've suffered through a nasty cold; I'm almost better, but Deborah is a week behind me and feeling miserable.

     We're still playing a lot of music, at least three times a week, often more. I tried to get a beginners fiddle group going closer to home but can't find people who aren't flaky about commitment - perhaps that's why they're still beginners. I practice a few minutes or more each day, and have a list of several dozen Canadian and Appalachian hornpipes, reels and waltzes, perhaps a dozen of which I play by memory now. Sometimes I get Deborah to play accompaniment but usually I only get to play along to backing tracks on youtube.

     My other music includes a Sunday afternoon vintage jazz group, a Tuesday evening sing along and a Wednesday evening "all-instruments play along". My jazz combo meets infrequently - barely once a month, lately - and there's a small weekly combo of yacht club musicians.  I generally play keys for the community groups but I also get to play my cornet and baritone at least once a week and my banjos and guitars occasionally as well. I take my harmonicas to the sing along and sometimes whip out the melodica.   I play my accordion a couple of times a week at home but have no group that I can take it to, really.  My tenor jazz banjo is my favourite campfire instrument.  It's easy to chord once you've learned the chord shapes, and the fret system is very intuitive so it is easy to do melodic breaks and harmonic lines.  The clarinet sits in a corner and has been ignored as I've concentrated on my other musical toys.

     The fiddle fascination has been an adventure. Right now I have six. I got one Scherl & Roth for free, with no sound post.  It was actually made in Elkhart, Indiana, Band Instrument Capital of the World and not so far from Toronto.  I got a good "hand made" Scott Cao from Campbell, California as a swap for a guitar I'd repaired.   I have an older one made in Canton, China that I picked up at Value Village for $25 which has a big sound but isn't the prettiest wood.  I have an old German "Stradivarius Cremona 1736" from pre-1914 that someone tossed in for free when I bought a mandolin which I repaired and sold.  And I have two newer ones, an Opus and a no-name 3/4 size which I bought cases and all at an online charity auction for $11 each. So I have quite a collection and I haven't spent more than $100 for all of them, including the parts I've ordered for them.

      I bought and sold two or three already before this collection. I paid $82 for one that I subsequently sold, because I peeked in the pocket of the case and found a brand new Kun shoulder rest, a bow guide for beginners still in the package, and an $82 set of Thomastik Dominant strings in there. The Value Village lady was proud and excited that she'd sold the violin for that price.  She didn't realize I was actually buying it for what I'd found in the pocket.

      I repair cracks, and I've learned to measure and shape bridges, and to cut and position sound posts.  I've made my own wire tools for that job, and I order all my bits and pieces on Amazon.ca from Chinese factories. I will put cheap string sets on them and sell all but two, but I haven't yet narrowed down my choice to the two I'll keep. I cracked the old German one and thought I'd popped the bass bar, so I took off the top - unnecessarily, as it turned out - and bought hide glue to put it back on.  That was a new adventure.  As was re-hairing the old bow that came with it -  an adventure I'm unlikely to repeat.  I'm just carving the bridge this morning, so I'll finally get to hear it.  I didn't know the bass bar existed until I put a clamp on it that was too strong, and heard a loud snap.  I raced to google, and learned something new. I don't seem to like the Scherl & Roth as much, even though I've learned how to position sound posts and bridges to get brighter or darker sounds - a louder, brighter E and a darker G, for example, or a more open, warm sound. I'm pretty sure I'll put those "warm" Thomastik strings on the Scott Cao eventually, and keep that one, and then either the old German "Strad" or the Cantonese one for a campfire fiddle.  Hand made violins have tops that are variable in thickness, unlike the mass production factory made ones, so different parts of the top respond to different string pitches, and they can have a much more intriguing, complex character of sound because of that.  Luthiers used to shave away wood in certain areas to create a more complex topography.  Lightly varnished, thin pure spruce tops have a nicer, more ringing sound than the newer, heavily finished Chinese factory fiddles.

    November 24th.  During the past ten weeks we enjoyed a couple of bluegrass sessions in Oshawa, sold one banjo and got a better one by swapping Rob's old arch top guitar for it, and then won the bid on an online auction for a tenor banjo, which I'd wanted for some time.  It's now strung and tuned in jazz tuning.  I tried for three weeks to get a local fiddle/bluegrass weekly thing happening to support my own efforts to learn fiddle tunes, but it didn't happen.  Finally I switched my Monday vintage jazz crowd over to the Sunday slot, and today there were eight of us.  We were really cookin'.  I'll pursue my fiddle with Deborah, as a duo, and bring in other beginners as their ambition and timetable allows.

     Deb and I played at Jamie Levac's community church, after he'd come out to play at our vintage jazz afternoon a couple of times.  We literally "played for our supper".  We had Thanksgiving dinner at HYC, and had a successful haul-out.  Frostbite tennis wrapped up, and the nets came down, and I haven't begun going to pickle-ball because I've had "twinges" in my hips and knees.  I did something weird to both knees just stepping off a curb and not leaning properly forward onto my feet.  But I got invited to play for a couple of hours at the Aviva Tennis Centre, so I crossed my fingers and went, and I was fine then and the next morning.  It's an hour's drive each way, though, so if I do any more indoor tennis this year, it probably won't be there.

     I sold a violin, and a mandolin that I had repaired.  It had a sagging top, so I humidified it and worked it back up, and then put a sound post in - a trick I learned from violin construction.  I have bought and sold more than a dozen instruments in the past year.  We sold a box or two of clutter at Ian and Ursula's church bazaar.  We continue to have dinner at Ian and Ursula's, or they here, every couple of weeks.  We went to Rodney's annual Christmas musicians party.  Other than that, we've simply played a lot of music as we've waited for Deb to get court approval to list Sol's condo.  We had seventeen participants at last Wednesday's "all instruments" group.  It has grown steadily since inception - clearly a winning concept with most musicians.  In recognition of our volunteer efforts as musical organizers and the three different weekly groups we run, we were presented with an award at a City Volunteers supper at L'Amoreaux Community Centre.

    September 14th. My fiddle-playing has developed to the point where tomorrow we may be bold enough to stand in front of a mic, in front of a room full of other bluegrass musicians in Oshawa, and play some instrumental tunes based on early Scots-Irish dance tunes.  I'll play fiddle and banjo, a friend will play mandolin, and Deb will play her banjolele and/or tenor uke.  We'll probably recruit a guitar player from those who are in the room for the "slow jam".  We've prepared and practiced Angelina the Baker, Arkansas Traveler, Fisher's Hornpipe, Bill Cheatam, and L'il Liza Jane.

    I acquired my fiddle on March 1st.  I swapped it for a lovely Costa Rican guitar that I'd rebuilt from splinters after a friend put his foot through it and gave it to me.  Violin remains a challenge to learn, with micro-tonal differences in pitch depending on where you place your fingertips.  At the same time, I learned to play banjo, beginning with a 4 string wooden top that Sol gave me, then a couple of five strings that passed through my hands, and finally I swapped an old water-damaged Silvertone guitar that I'd patched back together for a brand new Washburn 5 string which sounds great.  Several accordions came and went this summer, allowing me to settle on one ancient beast that I enjoy playing while I struggled to learn the Stradella bass button system.  I can play the bluegrass tunes on accordion as well, which might come in handy at music festival campgrounds although it isn't part of the bluegrass instrumental line-up for purists, but they are very commonly used for hornpipes and other "celtic" tunes in the UK.

    Deborah has spent the summer transporting effects from her father's condo, and doing "triage" on them.  We took a truckload of his stuff to Montreal for his first wife and daughters, gave some away, and sold a few items.  It was a weekly trip for her, an hour each way to Brampton and back.  I went a few times with the truck and helped her with furniture, tools and workshop hardware, boxes of books, etc.  I helped her evaluate, advertise and sell some of the items, with a great many more still to be dealt with.  Deb is waiting for her father's old lawyer to complete her application to the courts to be the executor of Sol's will, at which point she'll be able to show and sign the paperwork to sell his condo.  Her brother Geoff has visited a few times this summer, from the Philippines, to attend the memorials and help with the estate process. 
   
    Sailing report: We had extreme high water levels in the lake for a second summer.  The first was in 2017.  The upstream snow pack and rainfall was enormous and we suspect that it is our local effect from climate change.  We couldn't walk on our dock, which was slippery with algae, and the power to the docks remained shut off.  We finally got to step our mast at the beginning of August, and then we didn't sail the boat.  We went out a few times on different boats belonging to friends, but so far our own boat has remained in its slip.  Somehow between dealing with Sol's stuff, playing music, tennis, and taking care of the yard and garden, we lost the momentum for sailing that we normally have earlier in the summer.

    Tennis remains fun for me, and good exercise.  I had an annual physical ten days ago and my doctor brought up the possibility of reducing or eliminating my diabetes medication, since my diet has been so effective in bringing down my sugar levels.  I quit taking statins in February and my cholesterol remains low. From a one time peak of 244 lbs, I'm down to 230 lbs.  That happened gradually over two years, so it is from a lifestyle change rather than a "diet" per se.  I've been practicing the "sixteen hour daily fast" for two years - I only eat calories of any sort between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.  At 6 a.m. I make a pot of black coffee.  A couple of cups of coffee carries me through until breakfast at ten.  This "sixteen hour fast", or "intermittent fasting" was explained to me by a friend whose relative is a physician in Thunder Bay where diabetes is rampant in the indigenous community.  They began using this program there a few years ago with great success.  Obesity exploded in N. America in the '70's, with television ads for snack-foods that people ate while watching those same commercials, drinking sugary drinks and alcohol (even fruit juices touted as "healthy" but packed with sugar) and super-sized restaurant food portions.  We spend our evenings now at our nearby community centre, playing music three times a week, instead of watching television.  On the evenings that we're home, the kitchen slams shut at 6 p.m.  It was difficult at first, but my mind and body adjusted surprisingly quickly.  Elevated ketones in my blood tests indicated that I was beating back the fat deposits every day during that final couple of hours before breakfast.

    The garden was slow this year because we had a cool and lingering spring, but when the harvest finally arrived we had the usual bumper crop of beans, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, raspberries, kale, swiss chard, cabbages, carrots, and beans, and an enormous volume of cucumbers.  As usual, we can't keep up.  Deb takes some to the food bank with her on Monday mornings, and freezes some for winter consumption. 

    We have a blissful routine to our life, like the lotus-eaters but with fresh garden veggies instead.  We're mentally exploring a move to be closer to family or a better winter climate, but won't take any concrete steps in that direction until Sol's estate is settled.  Then we'd have to embark on what feels like an enormous task, reducing our own belongings and packing what remains.  And before that comes a tough decision, since we can't easily think of a more ideal place to grow old than where we are already, with the friends, medical facilities, shopping and recreational resources that we have right in our own neighbourhood.  Faced with the enormity of the process of moving, we might simply visit family more regularly, and continue migrating to warm places during the coldest weeks of winter.  My only discontent with our current neighbourhood is a lack of musicians.  We've cobbled together various groups of musicians but the flowering of the arts here is a bit sparse and desert-like.  I'd love to find a community where more people play and sing at a higher level.  Here we do a weekly sing along, a weekly all instruments pop play along, and a weekly vintage jazz play along.  I have a seven piece jazz combo that meets sporadically, a winter country-ish group and now an emerging bluegrass habit, but musicians come and go and few are as musically active and competent as I'm able to be in my retirement.  So that'll be a focus of my search for new digs.

    As to winter plans, we stayed home last winter because Sol was frail, but we had talked about Brazil before making the decision not to go.  So we might go there this winter.  Or the Philippines...Greece...Slovakia/Croatia...but probably in the spring or fall, not in the coldest weeks of winter.  We're just beginning to try to decide where we'd like to go this winter.  I'm drawn toward New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras, and mostly for the music.  An option might be to tour around in the southern States in a travel trailer, looking for music festival campgrounds and other playing opportunities.  I'd pack my tennis racquet and hiking boots.

    July 28th.  Sol died the day after I wrote my last entry.  Deb has spent the past six weeks dealing with his condo, arranging his funeral and his other affairs, communicating with his lawyer, the banks, the pensions and medical support agencies, and her siblings.  She's made trips every week to Brampton, sometimes with me and the truck and handcart, to bring home stuff to be sorted in our guest room and assigned to recipients: Marg's homeless clients, Deb's food bank volunteer gig, various friends, or Value Village.  Some of will go to her Mom and sisters in Montreal when we next make that journey.  The contents of Sol's workshop have swollen the shelves of my workshop with extra tools, cans of screws and nails, clock-making materials, glues and wood-working supplies.  Sorting them and stashing them takes time.  Getting around to using them or finding someone else who can use them is a long-range future project.  I think I have fifteen handsaws right now, and the same number of hacksaws, multiple sets of screwdrivers, socket sets, hammers.  Then there are his electronics to deal with, his iMacs and other peripherals.  And dozens of clocks, the ones he'd made and the ones he'd collected. Fortunately he'd already given away most of the ones he'd made over the years - that was his favourite thing to make and give away to people.  Deb plowed through a full filing cabinet of papers he'd saved, to make sure that she kept what might matter and recycled what won't.  We took apart his library.  He was a prolific reader with interests that spanned history, linguistics and evolution, among other topics.  We are marking time now waiting for Deb to get approved by the courts as executor of Sol's will.  It may be September at the earliest before she is approved.

     Sol's brothers and nephews and niece were in town for his memorial service.  Geoff and his two kids made it but Judy was ill and her two sons stayed home to take care of her.  Sol was remarkable for making deep and abiding friendships and for being a real charmer with the ladies, right up until the age of 96.  Deb planned and hosted his memorial.  We spread Sol's ashes, and the next day we attended a smoked meat luncheon in an art gallery in Brampton with Sol's siblings, nephews and niece. 

     Our garden is entering peak harvest season.  We're eating items from it every day.  The honey-berries are done but we're eating raspberries in our yoghurt now, zucchinis, cole slaw from our own cabbages, kale, beans, lettuce, radishes, carrots, green onions, etc.  The tomatoes are large but still not red.  Because of the cool spring, everything is about two weeks behind normal, so a photo of the squash vines covering the ladder pyramid in the middle of the garden at this time last year won't be duplicated until mid-August, but we'll have lots of incredibly healthy meals from our garden from now right through to November.  All winter we'll eat what we froze because we had too much to eat through the summer.  We still have enormous bags of frozen beans from 2018 in the freezer!  And we were home all last winter.  I guess helping Sol eat up his meals-on-wheels kept us from keeping up with our own produce.  He had a habit of accepting his weekly delivery of those and then going out to restaurants with his friends instead.  And there were items they'd deliver that he decided he just didn't like, so we wouldn't let them go to waste.

     The Noisy Parker combo did another performance for the residents of the Retirement Suites By The Lake in mid-June.  A week later Deb and I joined a large all-instruments jam at the foot of Lee Avenue in the Beaches, beside the boardwalk, with Josh Dielman from Scarborough Music.  I'm developing some facility with the fiddle.  I try to practice it a little each week, along with my banjo, clarinet and accordion.  At our weekly Wednesday play-along I tend to play keys but also guitar or banjo, melodica and harmonicas.  On Mondays I play my cornet and baritone as well as keys for my "vintage jazz" group, and I play keys for the Tuesday evening sing-along.  A few too many instruments to keep up my chops on all of them with weekly practice, but I'm never bored.  There's always an instrument to turn to that I haven't played lately.  The bluegrass group evaporated for the summer, the country combo did the same, and the Noisy Parkers are only meeting once a month until vacations are over.  With seven members, it is difficult to get everyone together at once for rehearsals through the summer months.  We did manage a BBQ at Wayne's house, though, and one more rehearsal last Friday. 

     My uncle David was in town with Margaret for the annual meeting of the AMSF.  Deb and I picked them up from Marg's niece in Etobicoke, where we had a meal of Greek take-out with them, and we dropped them at the airport, so we had a nice visit.  Dave suffered a heart attack working too hard at packing and moving his stuff from his home to his new retirement condo, but he was sufficiently recovered to make the trip, being careful not to over-exert.  Marg has pretty serious breathing problems, and she remains quiet and reserved but mentally sharp as far as I could tell.

     The water level in Lake Ontario has finally receding to the point that we may actually get to step our mast within the next week, which will leave us with two months of sailing for the entire season.  We may begin a collection of photos to advertise and sell the boat.  Maybe we'll trailer around instead; or maybe we'll buy a small trailerable trawler so that we can be on the water for more of the season.  Or another trailerable sailboat.

     All of our usual volunteer activities continue: the food bank, tennis, and the music groups that we run at the community centre.  We will soon have everything settled with Sol's estate and Deb won't have to make weekly trips to sort out his effects.  It feels like a sad time, losing Sol, but there's also that uncertain, apprehensive feeling of having to consider new choices, to write a new chapter in our lives.

    June 9th.  We've had a very cool spring.  Nothing in the garden is growing quickly; the tomatoes, peppers and okra are especially slow.  Lettuces, radishes and green onions are doing well, and we should be able to eat some of the kale in a couple of more weeks.

     The floods of 2017 have returned with even higher water levels, so we haven't been able to walk safely on our docks and we haven't put the mast on our sailboat yet.  Instead, I've played tennis at least once a week, and I have six musical groups on the go.  The latest is a bluegrass combo, which is a good outlet for me to practice my fiddle and my banjo.  Deb and I went to Oshawa with Dan Taylor to the once-a-month gathering of the Pineridge Bluegrass club.  We won a draw - both of our tickets were pulled, back-to-back, with consecutive numbers, and our prizes were a couple of passes each to their bluegrass gatherings next fall.  We intend to have tunes ready to perform at the mic at their "slow jam" in September and in October. 

    I have a group, or multiple groups, for each instrument that I play now: trumpet, keyboard, melodica, harmonicas, fiddle, banjo, guitar...all except my accordion, which I just play at home, trying to master the Stradella bass button system, and my clarinet.  I got a Conn "shooting stars" trumpet that plays better than my cornet, so although I prefer the mellower sound of the cornet for traditional jazz, and its compact size, I'm back to using the trumpet for more accuracy and ease of playing.  I haven't taken my clarinet to my jazz groups, but I will if I can find another trumpet player.  Mike Thomas checked my clarinet out for me and proved that there was nothing much wrong with it.  It didn't suffer from air leaks, it was simply a basic student model and not as easy to play as a higher end instrument.  I use my baritone horn as a low end harmony instrument to accompany our female vocalist in the Noisy Parkers jazz standards combo, whenever I'm not taking trumpet leads or playing keyboard, or singing harmonies for her.  I picked up an Eb horn with rotary valves, which is pretty cool and very shiny, a curvaceous silver instrument, but it doesn't play quite as nicely as my old beat up baritone so I'll probably sell it.  I bought and sold a flute, an autoharp, a couple of guitars, and one of the 120 bass button accordions, and made money on each of them.

     We had one mishap with our Suzuki.  It had been stalling, but would start again after a few seconds of rest.  No amount of investigation by the mechanic would uncover the reason.  One day it stalled and wouldn't restart, so we kept trying.  Deb got it towed home, and we tried in the driveway.  Then we got it towed to our mechanic, who informed us that whatever it had been doing before, this time it was a broken timing belt, and we shouldn't have kept turning it over.  We damaged the cylinder walls by doing that.  They overheated with the lack of oil, and warped.  We cost ourselves a repair of over $3,000, about double what we might have paid.  Later we had work done on the truck which came to $1700, so it has been an expensive spring for vehicles.  However, the truck repair included new front tires for summer travel, and those tires are expensive.

     Deb's father has finally agreed to do chemo for his myeloma, having found a doctor he likes.  He's on a four-day session of pills right now, with Deborah supervising each day.  He has been growing more frail, confused and forgetful, and we're hoping this chemo will show us, and him, an improvement.  He hasn't been able to return to bowling and has given up on his woodworking because he's always tired and weak.  Although he got his car license renewed, he doesn't drive unless Deborah's with him, as far as we know.  Deborah continues to drive out to Brampton once a week, sometimes twice a week, to take him to his medical appointments and take him shopping, and hang out with him for a day. They attended an information session about palliative care last week.  [Sadly, just a couple of hours after I wrote this early in the morning, Sol passed away from septic shock and fever.  The nurse who was scheduled to call on him in the morning found him quite ill and only minimally responsive.  He went to hospital in an ambulance, and died there just before noon.]

     I got talked into volunteering as maintenance convenor of my tennis club this year, so I've done some work on locks and lawn maintenance, and organized volunteers to help out.  Claudia has been an awesome garden helper - fast, strong, energetic and intelligent - so my own yard and lawn are in good shape and many plants are started.  We had a successful garage sale.  We organized a lot of stuff in storage, got rid of a lot, and raised a bit of cash.  We went to a dinner and a square dance at Janis' Unitarian congregation fundraiser.  The caller said she'd connect us to string band players in the city, which I'm looking forward to.  We've had one outdoor music playing event in the Rosetta McClain Gardens gazebo, and more are planned.  This coming Saturday is our Sailpast event, at which I'll play Heart of Oak while raising the flag, and then race up the hill to play with the Noisy Parkers at a nearby retirement home, then back down the hill for Sailpast dinner.  It's weird not to be able to sail out into the lake to salute the Commodore's boat in the traditional manner, but with the wacky weather we are experiencing all around the world, that's our new reality, it seems.

    May 3rd. Two months since my last entry.  I've had some fun collecting new instruments: two 120 bass accordions, a flute that needs new pads, an Oscar Schmidt autoharp that is intended for resale and a baritone sax that I bought and sold.  I wanted to play it but it needed a major overhaul.  I learned a lot about saxes in the process, and doubled my money.  I electrified Sol's homemade wooden top banjo with a 4 magnet pick-up he'd given me, and it sounds pretty good in a combo.  It has a clear, good banjo sound and good intonation for single note improv and melody lines.  In March I bought a 5 string banjo in a very good banjo soft case for $100 from a guy in the west end.  A couple of days ago I added a fibreglass bamboo circular tray to the back of it - it had flanges for a resonator but it was an open back banjo when I got it.  I just screwed directly through the screw holes in the flanges into the edges of the tray.  It sounds louder, clearer, with good tone, and is more comfortable against the body - so voila, a $1.61 resonator!  It's completely satisfactory until I come across a real maple resonator somewhere, maybe in a country garage sale. Mike Thomas is assessing my clarinet; I might sell that one and look for a better one.  I've repaired a few guitars for friends, and sold a few that I picked up cheap and repaired.  I sold my surbahar, but I'm hanging onto the veena until Baradwaj can see it in August.  I should practice it.  I picked up a lovely old cornet - probably a Conn but there is no stamp on it anywhere - and sold my Tristar.  The new cornet is enjoyable to play, a perfect weight and balance, and with lovely tone.  Slow valves, though, that need constant attention; but I enjoy playing that and the euphonium.  My Huttl trumpet is back on the shelf for now, and maybe for good.

     My musical life has continued to build here in the east end of the city.  We have a dozen singers and musicians every Tuesday evening and a dozen in the "all instruments" group on Wednesdays.  The Sunday afternoon Don Montgomery group moves to Monday afternoons at Birchmount this coming Monday,  The Thursday afternoon county music 4 piece combo continues, as does the Friday evening seven piece Parker jazz combo.  My fiddle and accordion practice continue, although I have no outlet for playing those yet.  Dan Taylor is building his chops on mandolin, so we have plans to play together but I'm not really a good enough fiddle player yet, being an adult beginner.  I might go with him to a couple of monthly Oshawa bluegrass Sundays.  I plan to build some sets for a duo with Deborah that we can pull out while traveling or at local opportunities, for example at the yacht club open mics.

     Launch Day came and went without a hitch, except that Jeff Mowbray and one other guy on the dock crew fell into the lake.  We seem to be experiencing a repeat of the high water that we had in 2017.  The docks may soon be underwater again.  I'm not sure when we'll get the mast up, but I'll try for next week.  Terrible flooding has happened in Quebec and in New Brunswick.  In Quebec, entire subdivisions were built on a lake bed behind a dike which failed.  What a cautionary tale that is.  I did have to replace the fuel fitting from the gas tank hose to the motor, which was an interesting learning experience.  Don and I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't run.

     Our first helper of this season came from Morocco.  She stayed with us for ten days.  She was an excellent worker, and we got the spring yard work done and the garden prepped.  At the end of this month, Claudia Zink will arrive from Austria.  We have the usual spring luncheons and dinners coming up with the Canadian Power Squadron and with RTO.  I had my first Thursday evening scheduled doubles tennis games last night, after Monday was rained out.  Pickle ball remains an option three mornings a week, if rain keeps me from tennis and gardening.

     Health-wise, I'm down eleven pounds in two years as a result of my "sixteen hour daily fast" discipline, and I'm completely off the Crestor medication now (there's a good possibility it was never necessary, actually), so my health picture continues to get rosier.  I had my third once-a-decade bout of diverticulitis and will follow up on that with a specialist.  Deb has been to Montreal, where Sylvia had her 95th birthday.  We saw Deb's aunt Helen's granddaughter Jessica star in Chicago, at the Newmarket Theatre.  I dragged my feet about going, but really enjoyed the show.  Sol is still upright, his pacemaker pockets have healed and he is doing fine without them.  H is as frail as you would expect for a 96 year old with a tired heart and myeloma.  He's has no appetite and is having trouble keeping up his weight, has refused chemo and treatment for high calcium levels.  He still drives.  He just got his license renewed.  His younger friends still enjoy visiting him.  He's been able to hang onto his girlfriend, and hopes to be able to bowl again, but he has folded his woodworking activities.  I'm supposed to go and pick up his table saw and other tools shortly.

    March 3rd.  More weeks than usual have gone by since my last diary entry.  We went to Sol's for a daytime New Year's celebration, but ate Deb's turkey soup rather than turkey.  I foolishly agreed to "Maintenance" on the exec for my local tennis club, which will use up some of my free time this year, but the main inconvenience popped up when they scheduled an exec meeting that will prevent me from attending my jazz combo rehearsal this coming Friday.  I feel like an idiot, allowing conflicts to develop for my evenings, which I should always reserve for musical activities. 

     Pickle-ball continues two mornings a week, and the community centre musical evenings also continue.  The winter has been cold and unpleasant, but music has made it more tolerable.  Don Davies got a Thursday afternoon combo going at my house, with Carlos, Martin and me.  We have thirty odd tunes that we could do for the yacht club audience.

     Sol, the main reason we stayed home this winter, has had two pacemakers installed.  The incisions wouldn't heal on either of them.  Now he's being tested for infection of the heart before being allowed to go home.  Infection may have traveled along the electrical leads, and myeloma was suspected as the reason the incisions wouldn't mend but we haven't heard anything more about that.  His cardiologist was astonished when they lifted the bandages on the second incision.  He said he's done 400 pacemakers and has had four infections - and two of them were in Sol.  Sol has been in hospital twice in the past two months, for a week each time, and he's still there now, on his second stay.  He's relatively cheerful, under the circumstances.  Deborah talks to him on the phone every day, deals with the doctors, and drives to Brampton frequently to visit and support him in other ways, but he'd like to go home, obviously.  Sucks to be 96, but so far, at least, he still finds it preferable than the only alternative.

     Deborah's health is fine and so is mine.  I'm off Crestor now completely, for a two month test period.  Cholesterol readings in late March will  determine whether this was a wise decision, but I maintain that I've never had a high cholesterol reading and shouldn't have been prescribed this drug to begin with.  Doctors look at a stout person and automatically take a CYA approach before they've even done any testing.  But there are side effects to every drug, including statins.  I dodged a prescription for Jardiance the same way.  Since I've had no high sugar readings and no prior testing, so why was it prescribed?  My angiogram came up pretty clean.  "It has other benefits", says the young cardiologist...but reading research reports and getting a second opinion from my endocrinologist convinces me otherwise.  I'm not in the position of most people my age, who take drugs to counteract an undisciplined diet. 

     I've actively sold and traded quite a few items through the winter, mostly through FB, and some through my web page descriptions.  It has become a hobby.  I'm getting rid of decades of accidental accumulation in my house, as well as items Sol is diverting to us.  In addition, every Tuesday Deb and I visit two Value Village stores and come home with things we can use in the house, and things we might find a buyer for with a suitable mark-up for our time and gas and risk of investing capital and not being able to get rid of the items.  Sometimes I see things that correlate to things I already have that I'm trying to get rid of, things that improve an item for a potential buyer. For example, I found an Earl Scruggs banjo instruction book that helped me sell my five string banjo.  I had ten Scrabble boards and not nearly enough letter tiles to go with them, so I brought home Scrabble games, carefully counted the tiles, and resold them with the special plastic game boards that had none.  So far we've discovered that some games - new, factory sealed - sell well, but in particular, Scrabble games, for some reason.  Some pet stuff found new homes.  Some tools have sold, some instruments and some children's items.  I have some Toys and Games that I might have to let go for close to what I paid, and a number of Sports and Fitness/Camping and Cottage items that should fetch a decent price in the spring and summer.  Almost everything should be easier to move in the spring/summer, because people are more inclined to leave the house, and to drive, when the weather is sunny and the roads are dry.  Maybe I'll do a garage sale on the driveway to unload more low-end items.  I've catalogued almost all of Sol's and Rod's CD's, and when that's done I'll move on to electrical connectors and books.  The CD's might be a sort of currency, swap-able for guitar/banjo/uke/fiddle strings, for example.  That's a theory, anyway.

     As a result of these activities, I have a new fiddle, a new dundun and a new accordion.  The accordion is just passing through; I need one with more chord buttons.  But the fiddle is intriguing.  I want to keep playing clarinet but I'll have to find a better one.  Mind is not easy to play - it is ok for practicing at home but sometimes frustrating.  Laurie says it leaks too much air.

     Deb and I played for Doly Begum, our local NDP MP.  Of course we played and sang "Hello Dolly".  We also went to a free movie.  Deb has several free movie coupons lined up as a result of her Carrot App fitness program, where she records steps on her smart phone.  We saw Beale Street, which wasn't as good as I'd hoped.  It was bleak, but it was a window into the lives of some people in black communities.  We manned the CPS booth at the Boat Show, mostly focused on selling radio courses. 

     One Sunday morning we played for Janis Daly's Unitarian congregation.  It was Deb's "professional debut.  She got paid $50 for joining us with three songs that fit the theme: Folsom Prison Blues, I Shall Be Released, and Mr. Bojangles.  The theme was "The Wrongly Convicted in Canada", and the speaker was the son of the woman who wrote a book about Steven Truscott in the 1960's that challenged the Canadian court system and exposed the flaws in the trial.

     Peter came for a day and a couple of evenings, and we attended the Mad about Plaid social event at the yacht club together.  He almost went home with my FG 260 12 string guitar.  Speaking of Peter, it is his birthday today.

     And that's it...actually we've stayed pretty busy, obviously.    

2018 - photos from 2018 are here.
 
    December 29th.  We have not had much snow yet - in fact, yesterday the temperature hit a high of 13 degrees.  But it is back down to minus 6 this morning, and the long range forecast is for normal January averages, about minus six in the morning and minus two in the afternoon.

     Until the Christmas season caused a suspension of activities at Birchmount Community Centre, I played pickle ball every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and I've drawn Don Davies and Jim Sawada into that activity as well.      

     After a stress-echo treadmill test, I had to take a week off from pickle ball for a follow-up angiogram, which turned out to be blissfully positive, given my risk factors.  No sign of heart disease requiring treatment, and nothing more than the majority of the male population at my age.  It was a weird experience.  I could feel the wire traveling up the artery in my arm all the way to my heart to inject the dye for the x-rays.  The positive outcome means that I don't have to wonder any longer if there's a hidden issue, a condition that will strike unexpectedly.  All my gardening, sports and travel remain relatively risk free from a coronary perspective, and the diet and lifestyle I've edged my way into over the past decade should maintain my risk-free condition.

     I set up some web pages to display things we want to get rid of, to downsize.  We picked up a few things we wanted at Variety Village: guitar stands, for example, and a couple of guitars that I was able to repair, and a few things that fit with things we already have, to make them appealing to someone else to buy - for example, a brand new book on playing a chromatic harmonica to go with the Chromonica I want to sell. We ordered a Kmise banjolele from China, for Deb for Christmas, and got it for a surprise bargain price.  To our shock, it arrived within days of our order, on Christmas Eve, from a local Amazon warehouse. 

     I'm listing all the CD's and DVD's I have that Sol and Rod both wanted to get rid of, and trying to sell them online.  The money realized goes into our charitable giving budget, but it is a big job to research values and list them all.

     Deb has spent a lot of her time recently visiting her Mom in Montreal and driving to Brampton to help her Dad.  Sol had a heartbeat of 32, so he got a pacemaker that didn't heal completely and he also picked up a touch of pneumonia, so he has been on antibiotics.  Deb is driving to Brampton a couple of times each week, taking him to appointments and supervising his diet, because he hasn't been eating well and has lost about ten pounds.  We took him out for breakfast a couple of times, the last time for his 96th birthday.  We won't go anywhere this winter, at least until we're quite certain that Sol's health is stable and improving.

     We've visited friends and had friends over to our house: Laurence and Joan, playing various board games, Ian and Ursula, and Marg.  We attended Jackie Davies' annual Rotary lunch at the Royal York and won some wine and other stuff in a raffle.  Then we had Jackie and Don here for turkey soup.  Rod Smith came back into town for visiting and medical appointments so we reconnected with him at Bill and Jan's, and also with Sheila Brand.  We had Christmas dinner on Christmas day at Ian and Ursula's.

     I spend a lot of time practicing different instruments.  Lately the focus has been piano, but our musical activities continue so I'm still playing trumpet, clarinet, banjo and guitar.  I continue to spend a lot of time collecting and working on charts, especially for the new community band, which has been gathering strength.  We had ten people last week, and one no-show, so we should have been at eleven.  More people will continue to come out, and for the two instrumental groups it'll be like a snowball gradually increasing in size.  I'm not sure that the vocal group will thrive in the same way, it is still small but we are still meeting.

    November 16th.  We've suddenly had snow, a month before official winter.  It has been our coldest November in many years, after an abnormally warm October.  Our hardy tennis foursome collectively decided not to play outdoors this week, for the first time all year.  Instead, I have begun to play pickle ball indoors at Birchmount Community Centre.  It's more fun than I'd expected.

     Our community band grows from week to week (photos in the slideshow link) and our weekly community choir has met twice now.  It's a great group of very good singers who meet for "a drink and a song" at a local restaurant, La Scogliera.  We learned Happy on our first get-together, and In My Life the second week.  We have two fresh ones planned for the third week. 

     Yoshie came back for another visit and carved a Hallowe'en jack o' lantern. I had one rehearsal with the Noisy Parkers, and the Lady Pi combo played at Shraddha's Hallowe'en party and at Janis' Unitarian church this past Sunday morning, doing four popular and well-known WWI songs, including Pack up your Troubles and Tipperary, to which the congregants happily sang along.  This was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice at the end of WWI. 

     On the 4th we drove to Brampton and took Sol out for brunch.  Sol has a new pacemaker, and has taken to it well.  Deborah spent the weekend with him while he got used to it.  He got it on Friday and went back for a check-up on Monday.  It healed up quite quickly.  Right now Deb is in Montreal with her mother.  She lives close enough to both her parents to be able to spend quite a bit of time with them.

     We thoroughly enjoyed having Circleman Tang here with us for six days in November.  She was very pleasant company and worked hard to pull plants and take apart the final vestiges of my summer garden, the remaining driveway planters, etc.

     I swapped a couple of musical items I don't need for a dundun, along with a shoulder harness and two mallets.  I also got a Hohner Chromonica (chromatic harmonica) in C, in pieces.  Today I managed to put it together, replacing one missing bolt and nut and another missing harmonica nut, and a "bumper", and glued splits in the wooden comb, which was badly dried out.  Now I have to open it again and treat the reed plates and comb with Burt's Bees Wax to serve as a gasket, to reduce the air leaks.  I've learned a lot about the construction of harmonicas.  It was worth the effort, not only as a puzzle challenge, but also because this venerable old model Hohner still sells for $250 new and about $100 used on eBay.  When I fix the air leak I'll compare it with the Chinese C chromatic harmonica I bought in a little back alley shop in Da Lat, Vietnam - for $8!

    October 21st.  We just got back from having our sailboat lifted out for the winter.  Yesterday I had a shift with Don on the tow boat, and the weather was warm (for this date in October, at least), and the sun shone much of the day, with no rain in spite of the forecast.  We only had one boat to tow, of a list of six or eight possibles.  I'm still playing tennis once a week, still playing with the big band until the end of October, and we haven't had a frost yet.  No frost appears likely in the forecast until well into November.  I've been binge-watching The Good Place on Netflix, courtesy of Lissy.  Hauling the boat is always a watershed moment in the fall.  Since the garden is pretty well finished, we focus now mostly on music until we can get away from the bitterest cold of winter for a few weeks.  I might try a little pickle ball at the BCC.  This evening I'll rehearse for a few tunes we'll play at Shraddha's Hallowe'en party.

    October 14th.  After weeks of warmer than usual temperatures, particularly the night time lows, we have finally entered a phase of 30 year average lows, and much lower than average highs, so our days are pretty chilly.  Danielle and I took apart the main garden, and the driveway garden.  She worked very hard at taking the bean vines apart and dumping all the soil from the pots.  We ate a lot of produce, and froze a lot.  The kale and swiss chard garden remains and we haven't had a first frost yet.  It's probably coming in a few days, so I'll throw tarps over the swiss chard and the pepper plants.  We have quite a few winter squash to eat as winter approaches.

     The community band limped along.  It barely survived the transition into the dance studio at the Don Montgomery rec centre, but I haven't been able to attract musicians in the east end who can do New Orleans style street band, or who want to.  I have a long list of musicians who've answered my ads and expressed an intention to show up, but never have.  The musicians around here seem to be very flaky.  I will probably relinquish the space at Don Montgomery to Ed McAskill and see if he can hold the Song Circle together there through the winter.  I'll play with him, and disappear during the cold months.  My own street band efforts will distill to Deb and me, Skip and whatever guitarist or other musicians we can find.  I'll keep trying to attract clarinetists but not vocalists, unless they can sing in my key so that I can sing when they're not around, and not have to construct multiple charts.  I'll do that in my basement.  I feel that perhaps Shraddha's Lady Pi combo is losing momentum.  We might lose Terry, and Janis has multiple commitments.  We did a second Unitarian congregation gig on the 16th.  I don't know that Shraddha has the people skills required to attract and keep musicians.  Sam Meli gave up on it when she presented him with serious homework on some tunes, sadly.  Her attention is divided between multiple groups and activities while she also maintains a job and a young family.  Sam has a working R&B band, mind you, where he gets paid for gigging.   Lady Pi is a decent outlet for me to play keys, while I focus on other instruments in my own basement NOLA band, and we might have a singing group at the former Bo Peep restaurant beginning in November which will require some keys.  I might have to break down and take my trumpet to Grossman's on weekends, maybe pound some keys for them as well.  I'm covering for Lloyd in the SML big band for this month, but I don't want to continue in November, partly because of the desire to see the singing group start up.  It is scheduled for the same night of the week.

     Mom was here for six days through the third weekend of September, so we drove out to visit Rob, Cynthia and Aiden, then over to Jennifer's in Peterborough, then to Brian and Theresa's in Barrie.  Lorna and Dalyn stopped in there for a little visit.  We met Theresa's granddaughter as well, whose name I've forgotten.  We visited Janice and Tom with Mom.  Tom is in terrible shape, in a bed in the living room, and appears to be palliative.  Rob was also unwilling to get out of bed while we were there, but he claims to Mom that he's doing so now after a scare with a trip to hospital and some poor blood sugar and magnesium readings.  He says he feels better since they prescribed drugs for his current condition.

     Deb's uncle Jack died and we attended the grave-side funeral on Oct 3rd.  He'd been ill for a couple of years. 

     Health-wise, my MRI sent me to a cardiologist with some minor plaque build-up ("calcification") in my heart arteries.  I had no inkling of that, since I play tennis and feel pretty healthy generally.  The cardiologist booked a stress test for Nov 21st and boosted my Crestor to 20 mg/day.  I'd been doing 2.5 mg per day, so that's a significant jump.  I have to monitor whether it causes muscle pain, wastage and weakness.  I have muscle ache, but I'm putting it down to a really bad cold that has lasted a solid week.  When the cold finally leaves me I'll be attentive to muscle weakness from high statin dosage, and maybe focus on doing my weights now that tennis and gardening are coming to an end for the season.

     On Oct 4th David Bruyea restored his mother's tradition of hosting a Thanksgiving pot luck dinner at HYC, so we attended and provided bean casserole and winter squash from our garden.  Sol and Elizabeth came to our house on the 8th, for Deb's Thanksgiving, and Danielle joined us at the table.  On the 7th, Silken and Julius stopped in for a breakfast visit.  They were in town for the weekend to attend a wedding of a childhood friend of Silken's.

     On the 10th we tried to sail but were foiled by a failure to properly attach the uphaul shackle.  We might have to revisit the design of the shackle.  Deb says it is the second time she's been unable to secure it, and she thinks she did it correctly.  So we took off the boom and prepped the boat for un-stepping the mast.  We would have done it the next day but I wasn't comfortable with how the motor was running and there were high wind gusts, so we put it off until the 12th.  That would have gone swimmingly except that Tony gave us the green light to jump ahead of him in the sequence and we had Mark (Patrice's surviving brother) and Tony helping us.  We forgot our routines, incorporating their help to slip pins on the shroud shackles and stays.  For some reason, Deb went to the back-stay instead of staying at the base of the mast on the mast step, which is her usual position for stepping and for un-stepping, and I didn't twig to the fact that she should be there.  The foot of the mast slipped off the shoe and the top-heavy mast came swinging over top-first down into the cockpit where I was showing her that to release the back-stay pins which she was fighting with, she needed to release the back-stay block and tackle.  The top of the mast could easily have taken one of us out, but we were very lucky.  It missed us, struck a glancing blow off the catwalk, knocked the masthead light off and crimped the cable at the top of the back-stay, but there was no other damage.  Lesson learned, I hope.

     It has been an eventful six weeks.  I've done lots of instrument repair, including learning to swap out the battery from a portable amp, and saved more than half of the cost of having a technician do it.  For a new battery and the labour, they wanted half the original retail price of the amp, which is as much as the amp could be sold for, second hand!  It was a very simple job and would take me no time to do it a second time.  I've adjusted four guitars and two banjoleles, built bridges, and strung Rob's electrics.  Now I need to get inside his Japanese one and find loose wires, clean the pots, etc.  The beat goes on. 

    September 1st.  It was a very hot summer, made remarkable because the daytime temperatures were high but the night-time temperatures didn't fall to historical norms, so your body didn't have a chance for the core to cool.  We continued to survive with fans until Jack Carter showed up to street band rehearsal with an old air conditioner that we popped in our dining room window.  A few days ago we bought a small additional bedroom window unit because it was "debranded" - actually a Comfee - and significantly discounted in price.  It isn't too loud, so it is tolerable for sleeping.   The unusually warm weather is forecast to continue through the first week of September, so we'll use it.  And it'll be ready for next summer, since the forecast is for steadily warmer summers because of climate change.

     In July since my last entry, we assisted with Goodwill Day again, then went for a sail with Jack, and then had Jack and Roberta over for a burger.  We brought Julia on board to play drums for Shraddha at Grossman's, since Terry had fallen off his bicycle and cracked a bone in his elbow when a dog ran out in front of him. 

     I got a $16 guitar from Value Village, brought down the belly and glued it together.  It had cracks in the bridge and the neck.  I restrung it with ball end nylon strings for less stress on the neck.  The result is a guitar with good warm sound, easy on the fingertips and gentle on volume, perfect for a parlour guitar or one you'd use to accompany ukulele players.  I also found an old washboard that Patricia helped me clean up.  With sanding, varnish and paint, and some other noisemakers and a neck strap added to it, it's a fun result.  I'd embarked on this project because I thought that Deb could play it in street band, but she plays all the jazz chords now on her tenor uke, which is more important, so I'm not sure what the fate of the washboard is.  It makes a very pretty wall hanging, I suppose.

     We visited Shawn and Shanaz in Brampton, and saw David and Marg there, and Nancy and John.  We had a new members pub night at HYC.  I went to Dufferin Grove Park on a Thursday evening to experience Street Brass, but most of those musicians don't seem to have - in general - very good chops, so I haven't been back.  It is a long drive across the city to participate in that.  My own "street band" limped along all summer and never got to the point of being ready to play outdoors in public, but we attended the Song Circle at Rosetta McClain Gardens and had fun.  Some of those musicians had excellent chops, and there are always guitar players who can strum chord shapes and sing favourite songs, which provides a good musical base.  Deb and I did a few tunes.  During the Beaches Jazz Fest we went to the Mennonite church for workshops.  Deb did singing and I participated in a New Orleans brass workshop.  Deb also attended an annual uke jam there a few evenings earlier.

     Rod came for supper on the patio, brought burgers and beer, and showed us the new home he has purchased in Nova Scotia.  He has moved there now, and left stuff here for me to dispose of.  We met the members of the Scarborough Bluffs Community Association and attended their meeting at Cliffside Starbucks.  We met, Hector, Heidi, Bernard and others,.  Later in August we helped them stage a Movie in the Park - Jumanji.  Jacquie invited us for lunch at the exclusive National Club in return for helping her host the Rotary International convention members down at the yacht club. 

     I had an MRI to explore for the tenderness in my side, but it seems clean.  I'll have a follow-up appt to discuss it in September.  The latest curiosity is a touch of vertigo, when I bend forward or turn my head, but it can't be that serious because it doesn't stop me from playing tennis, so far.

     I finally began to make some serious progress on building a web page of photos and descriptions of things we'd like to sell or trade.  Maybe this will be a way to get better prices with less hassle than running a garage sale, although we'll still have to try to dump the smaller stuff at a regular driveway sale, no doubt.  For the amount of trouble it is, we might simply drop a lot of it off at the Salvation Army.  The other advantage is that an online garage sale can run through the fall and winter, while outdoor garage sales only happen on sunny days in the spring and summer.  We have the structure in place now to add stuff we get from Sol and from Sylvia, which seems to be happening almost on a weekly basis now.

     I secured the ballet studio at the Don Montgomery Community Centre for my "east end street band" to continue through the fall.  We have been given three hours each Sunday afternoon, great parking and other facilities.  We've been meeting in my basement all summer and the repertoire is slowly gelling, so I'm optimistic that we'll survive the move and that we'll attract new members going into the fall.  I suspect the key will now be to maintain a good repertoire with charts that everyone can print out and depend on.

     The Lady Pi combo played Grossman's twice.  I didn't enjoy the experience either time, and have put my foot down.  I won't participate in any future open mics in bars.  I have profound issues with playing for free while bar owners profit by selling drinks to attendees and often only provide stage time to musicians who will invite their friends and family so that they will buy drinks. 

    On our second visit, the organizer wanted me to leave my keyboard set up for other musicians to use, which was really disturbing.  He hadn't asked in advance, and if he had, I would have said no.  We'd had no plans to stay until late in the evening listening to other musicians play music we didn't really enjoy.  We played at Janis' Unitarian church, and we've been invited back in September.  We played at Sherry Vanderkoey's parents' 50th wedding anniversary upstairs at the Stone Cottage.  I hope we make a successful transition to doing House Concerts.  If Shraddha can figure out how to build out her repertoire with only a couple of hours of rehearsal each week, we might have enough tunes put together for house concerts, but I'm beginning to wonder if it can happen.  They are complex charts for the average musician, not as familiar as pop tunes and each has its own "personal stamp", which each band member has to learn to deliver through rehearsal.  Each week there are scheduling problems.  This week Terry couldn't make it on a Wednesday, and Janis took that as an indication of a week off instead of staying on top of her emails, so she didn't show up either.  We've reached out to several musicians without success to replace me on keys for the winter months, and we haven't located a jazz guitarist yet, although James Mason is a possibility in October.

     I'm not sure what I'll end up being most satisfied with, but it might turn out to be a combination of "community music" with my Don Montgomery Music Collective and my own single or duo with Deborah.  Lloyd wants me to attend the big band rehearsal through the fall and cover players who are away.  The Noisy Parkers might continue playing together and even manage a gig or two.  And there will be another Song Circle in the gazebo two weeks from now, and at least monthly through next summer.

     Patricia arrived from Sao Paulo on August 3rd and will be with us for a full month.  It was supposed to be only two weeks but she didn't land another spot to stay and Deborah decided that she is quiet and polite, and works hard enough on the tasks we give her, to warrant keeping her for the full month, especially since we haven't booked any other help in September.  Mom is coming for a visit in September.  So in August, between the music and the garden, coming up with daily projects for Patricia and supervising her, we didn't use the sailboat.  I have to revisit my summer plans for next year: plant less, and get to spend more time down at the club when the weather is ideal for sailing.  I hope September will be a good month for that, but we'll also have Mom here for a visit for one week.  We will drive out to visit Rob, Brian and Jennifer, so it won't be all music and sailing.  I have "Frostbite tennis league", as I do every fall.  September will feel as busy as August did, even with no helper around.  We'll have a two week helper in October, a one week helper in November, and by then the garden will be completely put away for the winter.

    July 6th. Music and gardening have been the focii of my life for the past month.  I found Shraddha a drummer (Terry) and a bass player (Janis) so we now have a combo of four.  Luc is taking sailing lessons with Marnie instead, and we're preparing to do a set at Grossman's three evenings from now on July 9th.  We attended on June 9th and watched Patrick Tevlin play with his Happy Pals.  Shraddha got to sing a couple of numbers.  Yoshie arrived on the 16th and turned out to be an excellent house guest and garden helper.  Sol came on the 17th for Father's Day burgers. 

    After lots of problems with internet buffering, we finally got a technician out and got our fourth fibreoptic modem.  We've had so many explanations of what could be wrong that it makes my head spin.  None of their technicians on the phones seem to be talking on the same page.  After the last one left and problems persisted, I discovered that I got better video streaming by simply using a different browser, the Edge browser that is built into Windows 10.  So now I'm using Opera for some connections, and Edge for anything with video.  Too bad none of the technicians could tell us that during all the calls we've made to them over the past two months.

    I bought a clarinet and I'm gradually getting better, trying to squeeze in at least a half hour learning session each day.  I got some musicians together for a Dixieland style street band finally, and we've had three rehearsals.  Joey Burk plays tricone steel guitar and James Mason the clarinet.  We're hoping Wayne will join us on trombone this coming Sunday.  Last week we were joined by Janis and her friend Julia on drums.  We'll try to play together on July 15th at the gazebo in Rosetta McClain Gardens, at an acoustic instruments "song circle".

    On the 25th we helped Jacquie and Don host a Rotary International convention dinner at HYC. 

    I supplied seedlings to a lot of friends, and finally got all of mine into the ground, although I still have too many that are in smaller containers than they really need.  We got two truck loads of blue bins filled with expensive growing medium from Adam LeClair who was here for a year and then transferred back to Calgary - hundreds of dollars worth of soil, bins and other extras including herbs and large zucchini plants already growing in them.  Our whole garden is doing extremely well now.  We endured a week-long heat wave that just broke last night after rains that soaked the ground, finally, so the garden will look like Jumanji within the next two weeks.

    On the 28th we attended the presentation and CD launch of Shelley Katz' Symphonova, which looks like it has the potential to be a significant new form of delivering music to the masses in small centres across Canada and around the world.

    The Noisy Parkers managed a fresh rehearsal last night.  Andrew Chung gave me a serious trumpet lesson and put me back on my old student 7C mouthpiece, which I almost immediately began to realize will give me more range and stamina than the Bach #1 I'd been using.  He identified an air leak in my trumpet, and I repaired that and played it with renewed confidence.  I'd been considering buying a new trumpet but he convinced me that there was really nothing wrong with the one I have.  I have trouble using the mutes on it, but perhaps I'll only use the mutes with my cornet, and I'll experiment to see what combination of mouthpiece and mutes works best for that.  The main thing that he taught me was how to get good air flow, and visualize distant points to blow toward for higher notes.

    The summer is a-marchin' along and I'm staying busy and pleased with the garden and with musical events.  We've hardly had the sailboat out, but we'll do that tomorrow when we help to host the annual visit to HYC by the New Leaf home for intellectually disabled adults and their companion care-givers.  Perhaps we'll set up a summer series of sailing days with friends who'd enjoy the experience.  We have no more garden helpers until the beginning of August.

    June 3rd.  We've had two very good helpers in a row, John Han (Korean) for nine days and Chris Jeppersen (British, from London) for ten days.  They were both five star house guests and helpers, and the garden is in great shape now.  I'll spend most of my summer from here on playing music and tennis.  We have a young Chinese girl named Yoshie coming in mid-June who has spent a lot of time in Australia. 

    We finally got the boat rigged the day before Sailpast, which was yesterday.  It was a beautiful day for a sail, and we enjoyed the day.  The dinner wasn't amazing for the price, but they always hire a DJ and catering services, so all in, with taxes and such, it wasn't much to complain about.  There were tons of leftovers, and we ate some of those for supper today.

    We've had some trouble with the Suzuki.  Age is catching up to it, I guess.  I want to keep it until we have a chance to buy an electric vehicle at a price that makes sense, or a become a subscriber to an auto service that provides self-driving autonomous vehicles that you call up with an uber-like app on your smart phone.  We've put a grand into it in the past month and it is still stalling out on the road with some sort of fuel delivery problem.  Could be a fuel pump or filter, but with so many sensors talking to a computer, the sensors themselves might be at fault, and it isn't easy to know what actually needs to be replaced.

    Stef and Carolina arrived from Tunisia last night.  Carolina is a young Argentinian diplomat stationed in Tunisia, and Stef is her Dutch husband.  We stayed in their large home on an island in the Tigre Delta outside of Buenos Aires two winters ago, so this is a reciprocal couchsurfing stay.  They are super-hosts, with surfers on their list numbering somewhere near a hundred.

    Last Saturday afternoon my jazz combo, the Noisy Parkers (named after Matthew and Barb) played at the Retirement Suites by the Lake.  It was a pleasant way to do a concert, close to home with an appreciative audience, and home in time for supper.  I'm sitting in for Lloyd at the Scarborough Music Lovers Big Band for their final two rehearsals, and I hope to attract a few of them to play in a "Skeleton Crew" during the summer months while the big band is on hiatus.  Shraddha has built them a new Facebook page, which we hope will re-energize them and get them a few gigs.  They haven't been very active lately beyond playing together in rehearsal every week.  A secret goal is to get enough of them interested in forming a small swing combo for Shraddha to lead.

    On the 6th, Carolina and Stef will move on, and Deborah will visit her mother Sylvia in Montreal.  She's having some medical procedures this spring.  Sol is still well, as far as we can tell, but he doesn't much like to drive anymore.  He still bowls, but I'm not sure how much woodworking he still does - but he made Deborah a bookcase while we were gone this winter, and brought it over to her upon our return.

    Spring photos are here..

    May 19th.  Normally I do diary entries about once a month when I'm at home, but this time I let two months slip by.  I got right into sorting seeds, and started my peppers which take a very long time to get large enough for the garden (or my case, the planters, usually).  In April we had a late blast of winter, and we wondered why we'd come home so early, but at least there was musical activity, which had been lacking for us in Costa Rica.  Sol had made Deborah a bookcase, and he delivered it.  Jackie Davies used Sol's sister's paintings for a fundraiser, and invited Deb and Sol and me.
 
    Deb spent a few days in Montreal visiting Sylvia and Judi.  Christine Martin had a 40th birthday party at the Tara Inn.  I worked with Shraddha and with Luc, trying to get something happening for Shraddha's tunes, to get her to the stage when she can perform at an open mic, but even more appealing, to collect enough musicians to create a swing combo so she can do dances at the Dovercourt.  I got her a chance to sing with the swing band, but I'm not sure if she'll continue.  They just don't play out enough even for me, let alone for her.  They're an excuse for musicians to keep up their chops through a weekly rehearsal, and that's about it.  Shraddha's in Paris this weekend, trying to do live streaming of some songs on FB - I suppose just to say that she has; I'm not sure what the purpose is, actually.  But she'll learn from every moment that she puts herself out there, and it is amusing.  She has a half-hour open mic spot booked at Grossman's in July.

    Guitar circle and uke circle have been hit and miss since we returned, and also through the winter while we were gone.  They might evaporate, but they had a good run.  The guitar circle lasted for five years.  It might be time to change things up, form different groups.  Ian and Charles have got something going on, a band that is working on specific tunes instead of just exploring and playing different tunes cold all the time.  I will try different musical avenues myself, now.  I tried to organize an east end street band, got space at Don Montgomery CC, but so far not enough musicians have expressed interest, even three that responded to a previous ad.  Musicians are flaky, and it is so difficult to find any with enough ability to keep time, play more than four-chord changes on a chart, or play competently by ear.  I might have to just get out there with my cornet and begin accompanying people at open mics, ad hoc, until I make connections that grow into something better.  Wayne tried to get something going by writing charts and gathering friends, but that doesn't seem to be going anywhere either.  Once a week rehearsal with frequent cancellations is no way to build a performance.  I'll have to collect musicians in my basement, now that it's ready, who can agree on a full four sets of music and then rehearse them and practice them at home until we're ready to play in public.  The Parker combo, after five years of hit and miss rehearsals, is finally at that stage, and we'll do a retirement home on May 26th, but I need musicians who can do that in a matter of two weeks instead of years.  Lord knows I have enough charts collected for a dozen or more sets, whether pop or jazz. 

    The Suzuki finally caught up to us, maintenance-wise, after fourteen years.  Still not a terrible cost, but we had to do some brakes and drum work, change the thermostat, and a rocker cover gasket.  Maintenance on our own bodies is still fine.  I have a little arthritis which flares up from my weekly tennis, and it impedes my keyboard playing a little.  My doctor was pleased to note that I'd lost eight pounds over the past year, which I attribute to my daily sixteen hour fast while I'm at home, and the hiking around with heavy backpack that we did in Costa Rica.  Tennis started up again, so between that and gardening, I'm getting a little exercise each week.  We get out for dinners that are almost routine each year at this time: two power squadron dinners, an RTO luncheon, "sausage night" with the Sortwells, etc.  Lissy was here for a visit over the lunch hour yesterday.

    Workaway guest Micaela Patano arrived on April 11th for two weeks, but the weather was horrible and she was more or less confined to the house.  She did housework with Deborah, mostly.  After six nights, she decided to go and stay with her boyfriend's aunt and uncle instead, to kill the final week before leaving for Comox.  She would have been far from Toronto, out in Concord, but at least she wouldn't do any work.  I thought she wanted to explore the city where she was born, but that didn't work out for her.  Afterward she wanted a reference, but she didn't take the lead by writing one for us and she hasn't written to me directly, so she's the first helper I haven't written a reference for, even though she worked hard while she was here, in fairly miserable circumstances for her.  In May we had a Korean fellow, Jonghyn Han ("Jon") who was a very hard worker, polite and friendly.  We were pleased to have him, and got the yard and garden whipped into shape.  I was surprised that he didn't spend more time exploring the city as a tourist, but he was a fine house guest so it didn't cause us undue concern.  We'll see him through the spring.  He wants to go for a sail, and also attend our jazz gig at the retirement home. 

    April 23rd.  We visited Luc and Marnie's house for the first time, right across the street from Arnd and Stefanie's old house.  Luc has a beautiful old 1881 Bechstein 6' 10" grand piano in his long narrow living room, that he had restored.  He'd searched for six months to find just the right piano.  I'm envious, but realistically, it is too much volume for a small house, unless perhaps you use drapes and carpet to dampen the sound.  It works if you play trumpet or similar instruments with it, but not guitars or un-amplified voice.  And it isn't portable, obviously. But Shaddha came over as well, and we sang and played a few tunes: torchy ballads, jazz standards, a Spanish theme song from a Netflix series, stuff like that.  Good fun, and a good break from the 60's-70's repertoire of the guitar circle.  Admittedly, it isn't the music that Elly, Ian and Charles might enjoy, but they weren't there.  Perhaps the guitar circle group will split along divergent musical tastes, which might be fun for me.  I might get to do more challenging material, and more complex and interesting older songs

    On April 22nd we took the tarp off the boat and did topsides cleaning and bottom paint.  I serviced the outboard and we mounted it.  We splashed the boat at the club on the 28th, while I also did a shift with Don Davies in the tow boat.  Finally in May the grass turned green and the garden came back to life.  We've enjoyed tulips, which arrived late.  In the week ahead we'll host another helper from Britain, Chris Jeppesen, and we'll focus on cleaning and commissioning the sailboat in time for Sailpast on June 2nd.