August 9th, 2008
It's been two years since I made my last web
letter, and a busy two
years it has been. It's time to make a new one. This time,
however, I'm going to incorporate links to photos or websites that
illustrate elements of the letter, rather
than putting the photos
themselves right into this page. Click on the word links for
anything you might be interested in viewing or learning more about, and
use your back button to return to this page. I will keep any
photos fairly small so that they won't take long to load; and if you
follow any bad links, please let me
I began curling two winters ago, driving out
to Annandale for a men's
league every Friday right after school. I was pleased to discover
that I enjoyed it quite a bit, and it was a good outlet from the stress
of the work week. I also began training that winter for dragon boat
Last summer, after attended the family summer
campout and the
wedding of Davin and Erin, my nephew and new niece-in-law, we returned
to Toronto where I participated in several dragon boat races. My team, "Principalship", won several
medals, including the Education Cup medal.
day between races at Marilyn Bell Park, a hungry young green budgie
flew into our waiting area and
surrendered himself to me. I brought him home, and he turned out
to be a wonderful bird with a lot of character who developed a lot of
affection for us over the winter and became very tame. I named
him Puff, as in "Puff the Magic Dragon".
Deborah and I did some day-sailing on our
Mirage (photo to come) that summer, and I
continued to play league tennis once a week, as I do every
summer. We couldn't sail further afield because Maxie had become
quite old and could no longer safely negotiate the docks and the boat.
I also played three dates at the casino in Barrie with my once-a-week
rock band, Random Notes. And we
went to Kingston for a wonderful first Hunter family reunion (my
In August I returned to Alberta to drive up to
the North West
Territories, to "do the Nahanni" in a canoe
with my brother Peter,
nephew Dylan, and three of Peter's white-water canoeing buddies, Jeff,
Brian and Ed. That was a big trip, and a big event to recognise Peter's
I returned to a second year as vice-principal
at Robert Service Sr. P.
S., under a new principal. It was a busy year for me: in addition
to my vp duties, I taught a split grade 7/8 class with 15 ESL students
ranging from brand new arrivals with minimal language skills to
students with some degree of fluency who were virtually
indistinguishable from regular Canadian kids, at least in their oral
language skills. I taught all morning five days a week with no
teacher prep time, did my own home room and remedial in the afternoon;
I delivered the full grade 7 and 8 curriculum in English, math, art,
music, dance and drama - much more than a 1/2 time teaching load,
although I was still expected to be a 1/2-time vp. I put in long
days, and spent at least one day of every weekend in the office.
Deborah taught grade 2 for the first time
after a career as a
self-described "grade 4 specialist". She remains at the same
school, Oakridge P. S., a very large but a very good school on the
south-west edge of Scarborough.
Through the winter, I curled for the second
year, this time with a
mixed league closer to home, at East York Curling Club. I was
invited to participate in a bonspiel,
coincidentally back out at
We had to put Maxie
down on Valentine's Day, when we returned home from
work to realize that she was extremely ill, and she had finally become
too old to recover from it. She was two months short of fourteen
years of age, close to a record for a Great Dane.
I became very ill myself in March.
Following a routine biopsy, I
was attacked by a terrible infection that the prophylactic antibiotic
hadn't successfully screened, and spent my entire March Break, eight
days in total, in a Scarborough General hospital room overlooking
Eglinton Avenue, while Deborah shovelled almost record snowfall on our
driveway at home in order to get her car out to come and visit me
took me a further few weeks at home to complete my recovery.
This summer Deb and I went to the family
campout in the Rockies again,
and continued down the very scenic and winding "Sea
to Sky" Highway 99 to Campbell
River, where my youngest brother Andrew
has moved to manage the Story
Creek Golf Club. We visited with him and with my parents, who
arrived at the same time, and took in some local sights. The annual
chainsaw wood carving contest had just been held, and we got to see all
the amazing carvings on the beach.
We visited Stefanie,
Silken and Una on Salt
Spring Island for the
time (we saw Arnd here in Toronto upon our return), and then went to
Gold River on the west coast
of the island, where we visited the Upana
Caves (and surprised a bear on the path back to our car) and a fish
hatchery on a drive up to Tahsis, and then took a trip on the
Uchuck III up to Kyuquot. The scenery was spectacular, inside
fjords and out on the open ocean for one stormy passage that lasted for
a few hours on the first afternoon. The freighter takes supplies
to the fishing lodges, lumber camps, fish farms and remote
up the coast. We stayed overnight in a bed-and-breakfast at Kyuquot,
which has only one short four kilometre road over the hill to
a nearby lumber camp - the community is spread out over a series of
islands, and everyone gets back and forth
in small boats. We
returned to Gold River on the freighter the
next day. That was a
memorable trip that we're quick to recommend to anyone.
We drove my nephew Kenton's car for this trip
- a Toyota Matrix.
Excellent gas mileage, and very comfortable for long distances.
We saw tons of wildlife - goats, deer, elk, bear, and even a cougar
very early in the morning at the Lion's campground just outside of Gold
River, as we were driving down to the dock to embark on the Uchuck
III. I had some great photos, but I lost half of them through
what I can only describe as a "techno-idiot" push of the camera menu
buttons...but why is there more than one meaning for the word "format"
on a camera?
On the way home we stayed at Harrison
Hot Springs Resort, arriving in
Harrison just in time to enjoy a sand sculpture international
competition and a music festival on the beach just steps from the front
door of the hotel. We soaked in hot pools for two days before
continuing our journey. We stopped at Miette to soak in another
hot pool, and compare the experience. We stopped in a few other
communities on Vancouver Island and in the Rockies. Back in
Edmonton, we visited my siblings, rode Ed and Heather's horses, Blue
and Tex (did I remember their names correctly?) and went to dinner
theatre with Mom and Dad.
Upon our return to Toronto, we began enjoying
our garden again.
It had exploded into something out of the Little Shop of Horrors during
our three week absence, the result of record rainfall in Toronto, three
times the normal amount (our weather while camping out west was
exceptional, sunny and perfect the whole time). We haven't needed to
water the garden more than once or twice, and the lawn not at
all. We have tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, lots of butternut and
buttercup squash, romanesque zuchinnis, peas, raspberries, sunflowers,
and all sorts of herbs, flowers and flowering shrubs. We had a
bowl of strawberries every day after work through June.
We took a trip in
our Mirage to Oakville, for the four day long weekend.
We got caught in one downpour in the middle of the lake, but
steered by GPS until we could see the coastline and the entry to
harbour, and when the weather cleared we went in. We had a
pleasant weekend. We visited the Oakville
although we actually had a slip directly across a narrow channel up
Creek, at the Oakville Yacht Squadron.
We went to the Erchless museum
is on the waterfront, which told the story of the settling of Oakville
founding family, and had a fun exhibit on teenagers 80 years ago
and an exhibit on Oakville's status as a terminus of the Underground
from the U.S.
There was an Emancipation Day picnic in the
park on the same day,
bring back an annual tradition from 140 years ago, with speakers,
a local steel drum band, and the author of I've Got A Home in Glory
which tells the very dramatic life story of the creators of the
the first in Toronto, created by a black couple from the U.S., escaped
whose official yellow and red cab colours later became the official
of the Toronto Transit
Commission. One of the fascinating things about that park was the
horticulture: I counted fifteen fairly large banana trees!
This week we also went to Barrie, where I
played with my rock band on
the patio at the Georgian Downs racetrack and casino on
Thursday evening. We had a great time and felt very good about
played - we were "tight" (in a playing sense, of course, not a drinking
sense...or a wardrobe sense). The crowd was small this time
because of the weather, but stayed on their feet dancing through all
our sets. Deb and I stayed, like last summer, in the log cabin at
the local KOA campground. We were going to pitch our tent, but
we're enduring yet another four day stretch of thunderstorms, and felt
more comfortable under a wooden roof.
For the rest of the summer we'll be connecting
with Toronto friends,
day-sailing, playing tennis, working on the house and in the garden,
beginning to go into our respective schools by about the middle of the
have to help interview for new staff, and get my office set up in my
school, Cedar Drive P. S. (I'll be upgrading their website this
fall!). We've got a few yacht club socials coming up, we'll be
the Olympic events on our living room wall, and I'll be playing at the
casino again on the 28th for a bigger event, followed by a few more
through the fall at various places.
I look forward to a calmer year at my new school, sharing the
vice-principal's duties with one other (there will be two of this at
the new school) and teaching about 1/4 time. I'll be curling
again, and with Maxie gone from our lives, Deborah and I will probably
get to travel somewhere south at Christmas and at Easter once
again. We might be scouting for retirement locations, since she
has fourteen more working months to put in before her official
retirement, and I have decided to retire at the same time. It'll be
three years ahead of schedule for me, but it makes sense for us to be
able to time our retirement together, to travel and to learn a new
retirement lifestyle together. We're not sure what we'll do yet
in our retirement: sail in the Bahamas or in the Caribbean? Drive
south at Christmas and become "trailer-trash" six months of the year,
or find a winter home in Spanish-speaking Central America? Go to
the Pacific - Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji? Teach overseas,
if we can find the right situation? Tutoring (online and off),
professional website maintenance, playing music, writing stories, "soft
news" or travel articles? Sailboat salesman? Crew on OPB's
("other people's boats"), or courier boats for other people?
Courier travel? House-sitting or vacation-managing in exotic
locales? Trading houses with other retired couples for a few weeks at a
time? (There are websites that help you arrange all of these sorts of
things). We won't run out of ideas; perhaps we'll end up doing
some combination of many of them; perhaps you can even suggest a few
ideas for us!.
We wish everyone a wonderful balance of the
summer, less rain if you
live here in the East, and a great year ahead.
Steve and Deborah Gilchrist