This diary period covers the months between our return from our first travel to eastern Europe in the spring of 2016, and our departure to Chile the following winter.  There's a small selection of summer photos.  Maddy from Belgium and Mariana from Rio are there, and Arnd's old farmhouse which the family has restored, me teaching Miranda to play the guitar, and our family music jam in Camrose at Davin's house. 

    June 17th, 2016.  We have just arrived home from our European jaunt, Czech This Out!  Until that bit of travel we'd stayed home in Toronto for two winters.  We'd had to postpone our trip to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay due to my small stroke and all the follow-up medical attention that caused, plus the issue of obtaining medical insurance coverage.  We had to wait until all questions about my physical condition were satisfactorily answered.  Last winter we stayed home voluntarily because it was an El Niño winter.  There was not much snow to shovel, and there was lots of music to play with various groups, and we knew we'd be traveling for six weeks of the following spring and summer anyway. 

      I'm spending the morning writing up my travel notes, since I couldn't do it on my tablet.  A tablet is useful for travel apps, and also small and lightweight to carry, but is terrible for writing web pages and for sorting and editing photos into some sort of album or slideshow.

    August 14th. It has been a very busy eight weeks since my last short diary entry.  This week we returned from two weeks in Alberta and B.C. to a smorgasbord of chores, a veritable buffet table of obligations.  Yard and garden work has been the most pressing, but the climate has been extreme.  June provided only a third of the water it normally does, and July marked the ninth straight month of record high monthly average temperatures .  Climate change is a reality.  Global warming is happening.  The past two months has been a remarkably constant period of heat and humidity in Toronto, of the sort that we used to get for just a couple of weeks in July.  We have finally received some torrential downpours (there was one in late July while we were in Europe) which have given the gardens a good soak once again.  My sunflowers are ten feet tall, and there is a bumper crop of tomatoes along with everything else my garden is producing.  It's far too much food to keep up with.  We still have produce in our freezer from last summer that we didn't consume over the winter, and now we're freezing more.  We're also taking baskets of tomatoes to the yacht club and to our uke group, to give away.

     At the yacht club, we got the mast up when we got home from Europe.  We'd missed Sailpast, but we took a resident of Newleaf and her companion out on the lake during an annual event called Goodwill Day at our club.  We took an overnight cruise to Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, walked up to Queen St. that evening, and took in the Jazz Fest.  We managed a few guitar nights and uke nights, then went west to Camrose, Comox, Mayerthorpe and Edmonton for two weeks, visiting family and friends. 

     I got an email in the Edmonton airport while waiting for our delayed flight back to Toronto on Aug 10th, asking me to play a half hour gig for the kids for HYC's Family Day on the 13th.  Mike and Hope agreed to join me so we went to their house for the evening on Friday, and worked out a half-dozen tunes to play on Saturday afternoon.  It went extremely well, we were thanked profusely - as well we should have been, given that we'd saved their bacon.  I'd volunteered to play six weeks earlier but had been left off the program and had assumed they'd decided to go with just outdoor programming, which was pretty obviously the case, but they hadn't bothered to communicate anything to me one way or another.  I guess they panicked when they saw the weather report and the heavy rain forecast for Saturday; hence the last minute email request. 

     We pulled it off for them, and we had fun doing it.  Playing and singing with Mike and Hope is always enjoyable.  Luckily they were both free and willing to do the gig with me, and Deb made it a foursome.  If they hadn't, it would have been just Deb and me doing a duo.  We had a good selection of call-and-response, or repeat-after-me songs commonly used at kids' summer camps. Mike's Banana Boat Song a la Harry Belafonte was a great closer.  We handed out rhythm toys for that one, and had one little guy dancing in front of us "on stage", which the house found uproarious.

     I do wish the social committee at the club would realize how long it takes to meet and rehearse, prep charts, pack up and transport gear, set up, perform, tear down, transport your gear back home and set it back up again in your basement studio.  The club is perfectly willing to honour hours for members who are plumbers and other trades when they donate hours and provide their own tools, but in spite of the years of training and cost of becoming a musician, the work experience, and the investment in equipment, musicians are not considered the same way.  Mike is a music professional with a four year music degree and many years of experience in his field, but that has no import for club organizers, who seem to think that the musicians in their midst should all be delighted to work for free and not even be granted hours - which don't cost the club a penny.  It reminds me of a common complaint from musicians that they are so often invited to play somewhere in return "for the exposure", and no other compensation, not even a meal or free drinks at the bar.  Our club does cough up some hours, because I insist on it, every time; but generally in a begrudging way.  After discussion with the organizer, this time we settled for less than half the hours we had actually contributed to the event, just 2 1/2 hrs per person.

    On July 1st we parked at Elizabeth's on Lee Ave. and walked to Woodbine Park where we set up our camper recliner chairs and sat directly under the fireworks show.  I spent ages creating my photo albums of our month in Europe, and writing the travelogue.  We had meals with Ian and Ursula, Sol and Marj, and Moe and Jennifer.  I played house league tennis, and some early morning games with Dave Gracey, Bruce Ewing and Colin.  Lloyd and Esther came for a visit and stayed overnight.  I discovered that expensive Tilley clothes purchased by older travelers eventually end up at the Salvation Army and other thrift stores, so I bought some items that will roll up tight and not take much space or weight, for a fraction of their cost at the Tilley outlet - hand washable, wrinkle-free shirts, trousers with inside pockets, water-repellent trousers with zip off legs that become shorts that are also bathing suits, very cool stuff.  No checked baggage charges for me any longer!  And less to carry on my back while stumbling around in other countries.

    September 8th.  This evening Deb explained that two years ago we had seven days of temperatures above 30 degrees.  Last year we had fourteen.  This year we've had thirty-eight.  I bet we've had the tenth straight month of record heat, and the forecast suggests that it'll stay warm right through October this year.  The Farmer's Almanac calculates that we're in for a very cold winter, but I'm beginning to wonder if there hasn't been some sort of tipping point reached in terms of climate change.  We finally got a bit more rain, though.  June had a 1/3rd of the usual amount and July was rather dry, but yesterday we got a dump that half-filled my wheelbarrow, as also happened in August while we were gone.  Rainfall seems to come less frequently yet in extreme rain events when it does.

     In late August Aaron and his girlfriend had dinner with us and with Lissy who was here at the same time.  He had interned with an IT company for the summer and was just heading home to another year of school in Quito.  We connected with Moe and Jennifer, and hosted our youngest Helpx helper so far, Madita ("Maddy") from Belgium.  She is just eighteen and doing a gap year after high school.  She was a great worker, thorough, and dedicated to living up to her end of our agreement, in spite of her age.  Deborah thoroughly enjoyed having her around. 

     We had Sol, Geoff and Kym over, and delivered Kym's belongings to her new student apartment downtown, after which we had mango lassi with Mimi Kwok who has been running educational programming on cruise ships for the past twelve years.  After I got home that day I wrote Punjab Pause, a song that grew out of my frustration with being served "a three dollar cup of insult" (a tea bag in hot water) when I'd been promised traditional chai by the Indian waiter. 

    Ian and Ursula came for supper, Rod came to visit, and we had Curry Night at O Dock - all part of the usual round of annual events and regular visitors.  We went to the Bluffs Gallery for the Scarborough Arts Festival, which was a pleasant experience.  Deb took lots of photos of artists competing in fast impressionist painting competitions.  We went to Elizabeth Bowes' 3rd annual house concert for our second time.  We got new glasses.  Apart from that we continued meeting for uke and guitar gatherings, and I continued to be called out to play tennis twice a week.  Maddy left to experience a month in Montreal after thirteen days with us.

     This past weekend we sailed to PCYC, five hours into the afternoon sun, and I didn't put on sunscreen.  I really paid for it this time.  I got quite a bad burn from sun bouncing off the water, and blistered lips that are keeping me away from my trumpet for more than a week, in spite of wearing my hat, long sleeves and long trousers.  But I enjoyed being with the HYC gang, playing music two nights in a row, sleeping aboard for three nights, eating a couple of meals in the PCYC restaurant, and reading much more than I ever do at home. 

     Sadly, while we were gone someone stole my brand new $30 tire pump out of the back of the car - bummer.  I discovered it missing when I tried to repair the bicycle tires.  I can't convince Deborah that the hatchback door has to stay locked, yet she gets freaky if I don't lock the front car door because someone has gone in and stolen a quarter once weird. 

     While in Port Credit we learned that brother Rob is in hospital in Kingston, his back/neck pain having grown past the point where he could ignore it and hope it would eventually go away.  The MRI couldn't indicate whether it is a return of the cancer to his bone, or a degenerative bone disease that will require an implant for him to be able to hold his head up.  He has been in pain for many months now.  As I write this he is waiting to undergo a biopsy tomorrow morning that carries a risk of paralysis.  I've tried to send him texts but I'm not sure they're getting through. 

     This evening our next Workaway helper has arrived, Carolina from Chile.  She looks like a nice person who will fit in well.  She has experience running a hostel, and experience as a Couchsurfer and host.

    September 11th.  Still waiting to hear the results of Rob's biopsy.  Our Chilean helper Carolina is gone.  She stayed only two days because she discovered that the uncle that she thought lived in Ottawa actually lives in Mississauga, and her mother wanted her to go and stay with her uncle as long as she is in the city.

    Oct 23rd.  Fall musical activities have started up again: swing band, and jazz combo.  Our weekly guitar circle and uke choir had continued through the summer.  We attended a Dia de los Muertos party at HYC.  We took Chris and Ian for an afternoon sail followed by a BBQ at Ian's.  We had Thanksgiving/birthday dinner with Sol, Kym and her boyfriend Tiger.  Sol completed the dulcimer I'd given him the fretboard for, and is putting the final touches on a second one for which he is constructing his own neck and fret board.  We've done things like trimming cedars and the final lawn mowing for the year, and we've begun taking the garden apart and building the winter compost pile, with the help of Mariana, our current Workaway guest from Brazil.  She's in Montreal this weekend and has met our previous helper Madita who is working there right now with a video game company, and Sam Bennett, Sheila Brand's son who also works there as a chef.  While she was gone, I did my six hour shift on the tow boat for haul-out yesterday.  This morning the crane lifted our own sailboat out onto its cradle.

     Rob's biopsy was inconclusive, and returning him home was not successful.  He was starving himself.  He's back in hospital but the news has been slightly positive.  They're putting food into him and getting him to exercise a bit, so we're hopeful that he is in recovery mode.

    The end of sailing season is a process of several distinct steps, each involving a separate trip down to the club during the best October weather windows the week will allow: 
    1. We take our last sail, then we loosen the shrouds and remove the boom and mainsail. 
    2. We lift the mast off at the mast crane, secure the shrouds and stays with ropes and store it on the mast rack for the winter. 
    3. I do my shift with the haul-out work crews, lifting out the first 45 or so boats, while Deb helps to run the Regalia sales tables. 
    4. We have our own sailboat lifted and placed on our cradle for the winter early the next morning. 
    5. After the crane truck has left the property we return to our boat with a ladder and we remove the motor, gas tank and other items, add plumbing antifreeze to the system, and tie tarps over the cabin and front hatch, lacing them down back and forth across to the toe rail to keep them from lifting in winter storms. 
    6. We bring the motor home, fog it for winter storage, and place it in a basement back room so that any possible water in the leg won't freeze and cause damage.  We usually wait until spring to service the motor with fresh motor oil and filter, and gear oil in the leg, and fresh plugs if they're needed.  We pick up fresh ethanol-free gas before returning the outboard to service on the boat. 

     These steps happen this week, so between that and the garden and our musical activities, it is a busy time of year.  After we're through this bottleneck of essential chores, we'll relax a bit and return our focus to the downsizing process in our house and shed, and taking the garden apart.  We'll pull all our veggie plants and build a compost pile.  We'll dig up cana and calla bulbs, and bring some plants inside.  We'll obtain visas for winter travel, and renew connections for our cold weather escape. 

     On the creative side of things, I've restored two more guitars, bringing the total now to three; and I've written three songs, and a couple of poems and short stories. 

     Speaking of guitars, since deciding to learn guitar five years ago I've become fairly serious about it within the past two years, and with Sol's help, we now have a total of nine stringed instruments in our house, plus three more being stored for a friend.  The list includes a dulcimer, two banjos, an electric guitar, acoustic steel and nylon string guitars; and there are four more instruments at Sol's which will find their way to our house eventually.  One is slated for deliver this coming Tuesday, a sort of hybrid concert/baritone size uke for Deborah which I will have to tweak a bit but I'm optimistic that she'll be able to use it.  There's also a second dulcimer and a couple of electric guitars, one that he is making and another that he bought as a model.  That would make a total of sixteen.  Things may be getting a little out of hand.  People who have too many instruments like this are accused of having GAS ("guitar acquisition syndrome").

    Nov 21st.  We've had cold days.  Our garden has gradually withered and died except for the astonishing dinosaur kale and swiss chard.  The temperature plummeted yesterday.  We knew we had to pick our final raspberries, so we had them in yoghurt for dessert.  The carrots are below surface but the tops would have died, so I pulled the rest of them out.  Everything is delicious.  Somehow sugars and flavours are concentrated in plants when the cold weather arrives, which is the reason we're told not to harvest turnips before the first frost.  Today we awoke to a white expanse in the back yard, looking out our bedroom window.  All our windows and storm windows are firmly closed, and the furnace is running.  Last Christmas Ursula gave us a little poinsettia, and I re-potted it and maintained it through the summer; now it is a small bush, and sporting its first robust deep red leaves.

    Our sailboat came out the morning of my last entry.  It was #90 on the list, and they started with #77 at daybreak.  The weather remained amazingly warm and I played tennis outdoors and indoors.  Sometimes we played indoors even when it was 18 degrees outside, which seems silly but the guys had purchased their winter memberships in the bubble at Cassandra.  Mariana enjoyed Hallowe'en decorations and took some good photos, but didn't get to shell out with us because she had to fly back to Brazil on the 26th.  We attended the Commodore's Ball, and took Alan and Lorraine Hachey with us.  Alan is the brother of Deb's favourite fitness instructor, Lauren Hachey.  Sheila Brand's dinner party was fun. 

    The Suzuki, twelve years old, failed its Drive Clean test - it has a large evaporative emissions system leak somewhere.  Jim Sawada bought an OBD code reader and I learned to use it.  Now I have to take the car for a smoke test to find the leak and stop it.  I'd construct my own tester and do it in the driveway to avoid the $100 cost, but it's gotten too darn cold.  I also have to do a little copper soldering to bypass the failing mixing valve on our hot water tank.  We decided to buy it out, having paid far too much in rental over a number of years to a company that disavows responsibility for the mixing valve that they installed.  Enercare is a good investment, but provides lousy service to clients - perhaps that's why it is profitable for us as an investment.

    We had dinner with our retired dentist Richard and his wife Isabel, who is an adventurous cook.  She has taken classes in many kinds of cuisine.  She served us five things that I'd never had before in all my travels - and I love to try every local dish I can when I travel - from ingredients she'd either grown or made herself.  With an eye for my cautious approach to sugars, she created an appetizer of gravlax on sheep milk yogurt on cucumber slices, a soup of Jerusalem artichoke (and she gave me some to plant), a Moroccan "tagine with green olives and preserved lemon", russet apple slices on filo with vanilla, and homemade goat cheese and honey ice cream.

    We went to Rodney's Annual Musicians Party this past Saturday.  It was the best living room jam party I've been to for a donkey's age.  We played and sang for five hours straight, with excellent musicians.  Campfires, kitchen parties and living room jams remain my favourite venues for musical performance and participation, although my weekly guitar circle with a projector and screen is great fun, and we never miss our small group of friends in the uke choir where we use tablets and wifi.  Modern technology has provided a huge assist to recreational musical pursuits.

    Dec 22nd.  Winter arrived a little ahead of schedule this year.  We were warned that it wouldn't be a warm one - although there's been a warming respite that should last through the Christmas fortnight.  We've been busy with musical activities and a bit of snow shoveling this month.  Last night a group of us sat by the fireplace at the yacht club to play and sing Christmas songs for club members gathered for a darts social with a long table of food, mostly Christmas baking.  There were twenty at the dart boards, and thirty more chatting, singing along with us and making requests.

     Earlier in the month we had dinner with the Sortwells, who've invited us to their house for dinner on Christmas day, and with many other friends.  The uke and guitar groups continue unabated through the Christmas season.  One Sunday we attended friend Elizabeth's jewelry sale, at which she'd convinced her son Julian to play jazz on his upright bass with his friend Luan on guitar.  I sat in a bit, did a few trumpet leads, and sat in an armchair right in front of the two of them enjoying my own private concert.  The swing band played its last rehearsal for the season.  The Friday night jazz combo had a final session, and I played out a couple of times at a local pub, doing a "karaoke jazz jam" employing band-in-a-box backing tracks.  I took my friend Shraddha the second time I went.  She sang three latin tunes, Desafinado, Girl From Ipanema, and One Note Samba, and I did Blue Skies and a few other tunes with the organizer.  Eight of us from the guitar circle went to see Rosie and the Riveters at Hugh's Room; we had charted and played Ain't Gonna Bother Me a year ago and it has been one of our favourites to play together.  Last week Deb and I joined Renée and her friends once again to play Christmas songs at a local food kitchen and Women's shelter.

     We went to lunch with Sol to celebrate his 94th birthday.  He's still hale and hearty, and thoroughly independent.  He has made two dulcimers, a couple of banjos and a ukulele for Deborah, and is now attempting to craft an electric guitar.

     The Suzuki failed its Drive Clean test - something to do with a charcoal canister near the right rear wheel well, we believe - but managed to obtain a conditional pass for two more years.  I'm hopeful that by the time it needs to be replaced we'll be able to sign on with a driver-less shared car service, some sort of hybrid system between Zipcar and a driver-less Uber, completely controlled by an online dispatch system, and with electric cars.  That may still be many years off, though.

     I stumbled into volunteering on the tennis club executive yet again, this time as v.p. to support Meg who became president basically by default.  No-one else would volunteer and we all know she's the most competent at that role.  So now I have a few extra chores on my plate from time to time.

    My brother Rob is still in hospital in Perth.  His long and slow recovery from a serious health crisis is apparently well underway, and he will be allowed to spend twenty hours over Christmas Eve until Christmas morning with Cynthia at a hotel and spa near the hospital in Perth.  Deb and I have decided that we will drive up and book a room beside his to surprise them.

     The rest of my family are all healthy and happy.  We maintain our connections largely through email and Facebook nowadays.

    Merry Christmas to any and all who read this. 

    Dec 30th: we're off to Santiago, will arrive there on New Year's Eve, and the trip diary will be here.
Back to travelogue index.