Here's our collection of 2022 photos, and here is the 2021 album.  We spent these two years in Toronto except for summer trips to Alberta or to very local events.  Covid 19 and subsequent variants prevented travel for both winters, and even by the end of 2022 the airlines were still in a terrible mess of cancelled flights, stranded passengers, lost vacations and lost luggage.  We had five vaccinations for covid by the end of 2022 and had experienced a fairly mild case of it ourselves in July 2022.  We got flu vaccine both years as well, and although covid has been increasing in China subsequent to their lifting of lockdowns and restrictions, we haven't seen a spread of new and dangerous variants yet.

    2022 December 31st.  The seasonal concert at BBNC/BCC went very well.  Life remained fairly calm until Christmas week; we ordered new glasses, and on Dec 19th Deb was able to submit her application for a new 10 year passport, which we'll pick up on Jan 5th.  That same evening, we went to the SUJ Holiday Uke Jam at the Stone Cottage, which kicked off the celebrations for us.  We had to deal with the set-up of Deborah's RRIF and LIF, which was more than just an automatic roll-over, and required quite a bit of time to navigate.  Greg popped over for a visit on the 22nd and we cut a sprig from the spotted begonia he'd given me, which has grown very well in the SE corner window behind my chair; the sprig is supposed to sprout roots so that I can pot it and give it to Ursula.  Jackie and Don invited us to their house for Christmas Eve dinner, where we enjoyed lots of culinary treats including a panettone, with Paul and Ellen and a new person we met named Sheila.  On Christmas Day Andrew Chung was here for dinner (Fifi was in the U.S. at a wedding and Christoff stayed in Ottawa), and on Boxing Day we were invited to Laurence and Joan's where we played Neanderthal with an inflatable club after an early supper.
    On the 29th I played music with Don through the afternoon and then we went to Ian and Ursula's for dinner and a game of Skip-bo.  On Friday the 30th we went to Wendy's "Dysfunctional Kitchen Jam" at her house in Leaside.  On the days between we continued to meet for our vintage jazz evening, pop/rock/folk play along evening and string band afternoon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, so it was a packed ten days or so.  Today is our first completely free day in ten.  Tomorrow we attend the New Year's Levee at Highland Yacht Club, after which we'll be back to the routine of four music activities per week and the odd medical appt, and we'll search for a winter escape destination.

December 8th.  This evening we will play a seasonal concert with our three groups at Birchmount Community Centre.  These are the tunes we've prepared:

Group Rank, Title and link
Tues. Jazz 1. Besame Mucho
Tues. Jazz 2. Bye Bye Blackbird
Tues. Jazz 3. Everybody Loves My Baby
Tues. Jazz 4. It Had To Be You
Tues. Jazz 5. Sleigh Ride

Friday/String 1. Ballydesmond Polkas (3)
Friday/String 2. Road to Lisdoonvarna/Dennis Murphy's
Friday/String 3. Deck The Halls

Wed. Jam 1. Crocodile Rock
Wed. Jam 2. Obladi Oblada
Wed. Jam 3. Secret Agent Man
Wed. Jam 4. These Boots Are Made for Walking
Wed. Jam 5. Save The Last Dance For Me
    We remain in good health, while surrounded by rising cases of cold, RSV, covid and especially flu.  It is a bad season for flu; the most affected group are five year olds, followed by seniors. The concert is an attempt to fund raise and collect food and personal items for needy members of the community.  Deb and I also attended the "holiday hamper" Rotary event put on by Jackie Davies and her friend Paul.  The concert tonight will be seventy people in the multi-purpose room: musicians and audience of family, friends and community members.  If we are unscathed two weeks from now, we'll pick a winter escape destination and buy tickets.
    We had to buy a new fridge.  Ours was pretty old, probably more than twenty years, and has had the compressor replaced once.  The door seal was shot, and they won't provide replacements - they'd rather sell new fridges, it seems.  We got a brushed steel Whirlpool quite similar to the Frigidaire that we had, but with a larger freezer compartment.  We took a five year extended warranty on it.  We'll see whether that was wise.  We also had to have the fan repaired for the second time in two years on our downstairs freezer.  We got it free from Valerie originally, but have spent in the region of $1,000 for two fan repairs since we've owned it.  Time to reduce our reliance on freezers...we still have the $50 chest freezer in the shed that is working fine, but if we ever have an extended power outage we'll lose some food.  When the fan failed this time, Deb had to keep some of her food in Hilde's freezer and in Ursula's church freezer.
    On Nov 13th we pulled our final carrots, and brought some peppers inside to continue ripening on the plants.  We're still eating them, along with banana peppers and tomatoes we'd picked to window-ripen.  We tarped our boat and fogged the motor, and cleaned the eaves of our house.  We had one snow that required shoveling in November, but no accumulation since then.  We picked our truck up from Paul's Auto Electric in Etobicoke and drove it home.  We are still chasing shorts in the grounds; City Buick returned two thirds of the money we'd paid them for the bogus diagnostic, and we've taken it back to them to check the codes.  We'll go back there again today; if they can correct the problem, the truck should last us another few years.

Oct 23rd.  Yesterday Deb and I worked the check-in desk at HYC for haul-out for six hours, then cooled our heels until we brought our own boat to the lift bridge at 5:30.  We were #66.  We had trouble with the motor, which probably has some gum in the carburetor from sitting too long without running in the past season.  It was a long day, and we were reminded of how exhausted we can be by a total change in routine for a day.  Today is a rest day, with some gardening, some music and some Spanish practice.  Deb's routine includes morning fitness classes online four days a week, so she's back to doing that today.
    The truck saga continues.  We hope to undertake a last ditch effort this week to have it towed to Paul's Auto Electric in Etobicoke.  If he can't fix it, we part it out and have the shell towed away.  If he can, we'll probably sell it and put a trailer hitch on the RAV, and find or build a small yard trailer to replace the functionality of the truck bed.
    On the 6th we attended a free concert with tickets from Sue Horton.  It was Wynton Marsalis.  We didn't enjoy much of it.  It was jazz that was more accessible to musicians who've played the same tunes together a lot, rather than to audience members, non-musicians, and people like me who'd hoped to hear more vintage New Orleans jazz in the program, that being where Wynton Marsalis is from.
    We sold our bunk beds and brought a more useful open wire rack up from the basement to put in Deb's office/work-out room.  We have not been able to have young garden helpers as guests for two years, and it looks like Covid is with us for many years to come, so as we age, it seems prudent not to expose ourselves to further threats.  Young people would arrive by plane and would mingle with people while exploring the city, so that seems like a vector for new strains of covid.
    We are entering a final week of decent weather, after a cold month.  The eighteen degree days should ripen our green tomatoes and turn our yellow peppers red before the first frost, which usually happens at the beginning of November - although the long range forecast is still for above average temperatures day and night.  We'll have days to pull our garden apart for the winter, and to clean the eaves.  Then our minds will turn to the idea of finding somewhere warm to travel in the winter.  Brazil is my wish, if it turns out to be practical.   We've had our flu shots, and will have our 5th covid vaccines two days from now, on Oct 25th.
    We had a second session with Wilfred, Elisa and Becky to run the contra tune sets, as a "proof of concept", making sure we can play our reels up to speed for the dancers.  Our first meeting was pre-pandemic, two years ago.  
This time Sue Horton and Elizabeth joined us with their fiddles.  I will have an easier time than they will, just chording for them on the keyboard, although I will also practice the tunes at tempo on my accordion in case there's an outdoor dance some day.  I can play them all on my fiddle, but there can be too many fiddlers.  I'm still finding that the 5 string is my favourite instrument to practice at home, though.  And I play it a lot at my Wednesday evening pop play alongs as well as on Friday afternoon string band.

Sept 29th.  Just got back from a flight to Edmonton to visit family there and in Camrose and New Norway.  On the way home we sat with a lady who'd paid $87 each way for her ticket rather than the $111 each way that we paid, just by watching and buying two months early.  Lesson learned, but not a huge difference - with baggage charges and other surcharges and taxes, we had a bill of $807, which beat Air Canada by at least $200.  We paid a little more while we waffled about whether to drive out instead.
    Emily was getting off shift as we landed.  She picked us up and dropped us at Dianne's, where we schmoozed with Ila and napped until Dianne, Kris and Miranda got home.  We had a good visit and ate pizza.  On Saturday Dianne drive us to the south side to have a visit Arnd and Stefanie in the house they'd sold to Silken and Julius.  To our great delight, our god-daughter Una was there as well, but Silken had just given birth to a little girl and was not allowed to leave the hospital with her so we didn't get to see her.
    Kris made a nice roast chicken, and they had great tomatoes.  On Sunday we played some tunes together in the living room, Dianne, Miranda, me and Deb.  Kris recorded them on his phone.  We included Arkansas Traveler which Dianne could include in her music class programming on Monday, so that they could sing the baby bumble bee song. 
    We tried to rent a car to go to New Norway but it was a horror-show of cookies and algorithms online, with Kayak and PriceLine aggregators playing silly games with the price, and the Budget car rental rep was terrible on the phone.  He probably had too many calls to field at once.  Dianne's phone didn't work and we got cut off, then he put us on hold when we called back, and the third time it connected to dead air, which he might have done as soon as he saw our number on the screen.  There was extra cost and uncertainty about renting a car at the depot near Dianne and leaving it at the airport depot, and if we returned it to either location we'd still have a long public transit connection to the airport.  That could have worked, but after thinking about it overnight, I messaged Emily and Peter and they agreed to let us ride out and back with them.  It made less sense to spend over $300 on a rental car that would be parked for most of the two days we'd have it, if they had space in their vehicles and we could offer gas money.  There used to be a 20 seater commuter bus between Edmonton and Camrose called the Camrose Connector, but it got shut down along with many other Red Arrow bus lines in March of '21, as I learned when hunting for a place to book seats online.
    On Monday afternoon Emily and Darek picked us up at Dianne's and drove us to Heather and Ed's in New Norway.  Peter and Christina arrived shortly afterward.  Mom drove herself over, and Andrea came, as did Davin.  
We had a good BBQ and campfire visit with everyone.  Heather had picked up Callum and Clara after school, and Davin took them home.  On Tuesday, after a little shopping, we visited the horses at Davin's with Ed, where Deb and Christina each had a ride on Kicks Buttowski.  We saw Erin in her car returning from Edmonton but could only wave as we passed like ships in the night.  We had a pizza supper and croquet with the kids, and drove into Camrose to visit with Mom again, and to see Andrew.  It was a good visit over these two days, with a lot of conversation around the dining room table in the morning and the campfire in the evening. 
    On Wednesday Peter dropped us at the airport on his way into Edmonton.  Travel isn't fun, but it was our first ride in an airplane since the pandemic hit two years ago, and we seem to be unscathed in spite of Dianne's cold, which increases our confidence to fly somewhere warm in the cold months coming up.  We still had to wear masks in the airport and on the plane, but two days from now this mandate will be dropped.  The pandemic seems to be winding up, although we'll be sure to get regular booster vaccinations as soon as they become available every six months or so, especially for international travel.  This morning we're expecting a week of sunshine and above seasonal temperatures, perfect for dropping our mast and pulling apart the garden in slow stages ahead of the first frost, which will be in the first week of November if we don't get an early one.
    Apart from that, Deb will be back to her usual routine of fitness and shopping, and I'll focus on tennis and music until we begin to research a winter trip.  I might join Variety Village again to combat the aging process with daily weights and track work through the winter, and I'll try to coax some seasonal blooms from my orchids.

July 1st.  May was cool.  Parts of June were pretty hot, but no temperatures above thirty yet, except for a few days of high humidex.  Tennis is going well and I'm stronger on my feet now - the first day back at tennis I was a little shaky, but improved week by week.  We got our fourth covid shots.  We attended a Pineridge bluegrass event, one of only two they held before shutting down for the summer.  Our own Birchmount groups continue, and the Wednesday evening one is best - too pop for my taste but no matter who is missing there are always enough people to play and make it fun for everyone.  The vintage jazz group met once and seems a bit iffy.  The Friday string band continues but summer makes it a bit tenuous each week.  We enjoyed Josh's Beach jams, and went to Tottenham bluegrass festival last weekend and stayed over two nights in the Conservation area in our T@B.  Tomorrow we'll go to the Stouffville Strawberry Festival and see Brian Sullivan, Ann Delong and her musical partner Mike, and many other musicians playing in the bandshell from 9 until 5, one hour each.

    Tottenham was only a mediocre first bluegrass festival experience for us.  It was hot, so we sat at the top of the hill under the trees, far from the stage - but they had huge speakers and we wouldn't have enjoyed being close enough to see the performers anyway.  We used binoculars.  They held a "band scramble" on Thursday evening but didn't tell us about it until we arrived when we read it in our program.  Our camping was for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so I don't know how we could have arrived on Thursday, but if we had, we'd have met musicians and formed little groups to perform 3 or 4 songs on stage, which would have been fun.  They asked us in the exit survey what we thought of the workshops, but there weren't any workshops.  There was little participation except that some people went about the campsite after midnight and found groups to sit in with.  On Sunday there was nothing but whiney, country-style gospel bluegrass in the morning, and then everyone quickly left the park, so there was no opportunity to play - I'd been hoping to play all Sunday afternoon and evening, and depart on Monday, but it was pointless to stay so we went back home on Sunday.  We enjoyed JP Comier, and a few other of the small groups.

    June was a month for eating hascaps, kale and lettuce.  The raspberries are just beginning, we've had a few last night and tonight, the vanguard of our July crop.  Beans are climbing but only flowers so far.  There are some small zucchinis that will soon be ready to eat, and a few small cucumbers.  Everything else is growing well, and there are buds and flowers on small pepper plants.  Heather's lilies, the day lilies and the poppies are all in bloom.

    We have our mast up but haven't sailed our boat yet.  We need to scrub it and photograph it so that we can put it up for sale.  June 18th was Sailpast, but I went out on Slobo's boat.  We ate sausages today at HYC but there was hardly anyone there.  We met Jody McKenna and Colin Marshall and learned that she likes to sing and would happily convene a singalong at HYC on Sunday afternoons.  That sounds promising.  We played tunes for her for a couple of hours today.

April 26th.  I've been able to play tennis once a week and I mowed the lawn for the first time two days ago.  The Wednesday Birchmount group kept meeting but Deb and I avoided it for a few weeks leading up to our fourth covid vaccine this coming Thursday the 28th.  They played at Scarborough Food Security Initiative on Saturday morning while Deb and I were launching our boat. We did keep playing with our string band each Friday afternoon, where we are well separated and nobody is singing, generally. 

    Yesterday our first tulip opened, and I have about 150 small pepper plants growing in the windows, waiting for outside planting.  At the end of April, after our final two nights of zero overnight temperature, I'll plant lettuces, carrots, radishes, kale, etc.  Later in May I'll begin the beans, then the squash, cucumbers and zucchinis.   We have regular reciprocal hosting of meals with Lawrence and Joan, and with Ian and Ursula.

This past weekend we launched our boat.  I worked on the dock crew and Deb worked inside the clubhouse registering people for lunch and noting their arrival.  I went for a very cold swim.  Mark Nash's boat blew back onto the finger dock and I ran to push it off.  Someone came up behind me to help.  I somehow overextended and tried to step back onto the finger dock but he was there and I had nowhere to go.  I had a choice: fall into the water, or grab the rails of Mark's boat and hope that he might get blown back to the dock once again.  I wondered if I could hold on long enough for the tow boat to come around and rescue me, but they were on the other side of Mark's boat and couldn't have seen me or gotten to me.  Eventually my grip gave up.  I dropped into the water and paddled over to the finger dock where the guys grabbed me and moved me to the ladder, and helped me up it.  It was a major cold shock.  My muscles were crippled by the cold and I could barely find the steps on the ladder with my feet.  Deb drove me home for a hot shower and dry clothes, and some food for energy.  It took a long time for the shivers to disappear, and I was a bit spacey all day from the residual effect of the adrenalin, which also put me in a state of hyper nervous energy for a while during my recovery, a bit like a meth rush.  But I jumped back into my crew to finish my job for the day, and my own boat came out within an hour of my return.

2022 March 17th.  For eleven weeks since my last entry, we've endured winter.  It has felt like traveling slowly along a long gloomy tunnel.  In late February we were witness to Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and it has been a focus of my attention daily and almost hourly for three weeks now, as it gradually becomes more horrific. 
    The temperature has gradually improved as the days grew longer.  This past weekend we entered daylight savings time and today our daily high will hit an anomalous 17 degrees.  I will resume my morning routine tour of the garden, looking for green shoots. 
    Our music groups were able to begin meeting again in late January and I now have four on the go, including a quartet with Laurie on clarinet and Ronald Farr on guitar, the barely alive string band with David Henderson on mandolin and guitar and Dan Taylor as an erstwhile participant with his bass, mandolin or guitar.  Our Wednesday evening group is back to its pre-covid strength in numbers; there were seventeen of us there for a photo yesterday.  I've been asked to play trumpet with Sound Ideas on Thursday evenings, and jazz piano for the Scarboro Music Lovers big band on Tuesday evenings beginning on April 5th.
    We had one event at HYC, a beer tasting event where I tasted no beer but had chili and put in some hours while Deb also worked in the kitchen. 
    My Spanish continues with the help of a new tool, Google Reactor, which provides simultaneous Spanish and English subtitles.  I'm making glacial but observable progress, and spend at least a half hour every day immersed in Spanish conversation training. 
    I build strength with a daily attempt at doing a real chin-up (singular, still), and increase my ability to do a dozen push-ups, while my weight loss holds steady under 200 lbs and my endocrinology tests continue to pass with flying colours. 
    In January we continued Zoom calls with family, played online games of Nimmt and Saboteur, and attended online HYC COM and Budget meetings.
    On January 22nd we went to Ian and Ursula's for supper, and we had them to our house for dinner and a game of "Chicken Foot" on Feb 12th.
    On March 6th we attended Jackie Davies' 75th birthday party.  Don, who is two years older, has recovered from his unhappy health event and is building strength again, hoping to play tennis with us at the beginning of April.  I will meet him at the club today to collect photographic details of how his boat sits on its cradle, in order to sub in for him at haul-out next October, in case he has a conflict with an important family event.
    I've spent a little time each day viewing the dvd's that Dad had compiled from his VHS tapes.  I'm going to be able to copy them to a USB stick to mail to Peter and other family members. 
    I'm looking forward to being able to open the back door, set up garage sale(s), and work in the garden.  I hope we'll be able to travel locally this summer with our T@B and play campfire music.  I've consolidated my chops on the stringed instruments although I'm still not incredibly fast at flat picking guitar or tenor banjo.  For chords and vocal accompaniment the tenor guitar and 6 string are now interchangeable.  The fiddle takes daily attention for intonation but I'm an okay amateur fiddler now, capable of playing with other string players.

2022 January 1st.  One more New Year's Eve spent in lock down.  Unofficial this time, but everyone has learned the routine.  The city put on high altitude fireworks and a live show on youtube leading up to midnight.  It was cold and foggy at midnight and we wouldn't have seen them if we'd gone outside, so we watched from home.  As we watched the large tv screen, the concussive pounding from their source on barges near shore on the lake battered our house, seeming much closer than they actually were. 
    We had haggis for Christmas dinner, and we'll have turkey today.  I've repotted a few of the orchids that Deb brought home from the discount shelf; they were grown in some sort of peat plug inside bark chips, and two of them had very rotten roots.  I'll wait now to see if they recover.  The leaves are still healthy.  She got three of these orchids, and I helped choose six more.  Seven still have excellent blossoms and will cheer us through the coldest weeks of winter; I've learned how to care for them in the off season, so I expect to see fresh blossoms again next fall.  The "sun stick" neon lamp also provides excellent SAD therapy for anyone sitting in front of the terrariums and enjoying the blossoms.
    Other than orchids, our days are dominated by Facebook, Youtube and other internet distractions.  I play several different instruments and study Spanish daily.  I've been through many months of studying verb conjugations and I keep that up for fifteen or twenty minutes each day to entrench my gains, but my main current focus is on speaking Spanish dialogue from videos out loud into Google Translate.  The computer allows me to slow or pause the video, read the captions while the sound is muted, and watch my speech appear translated into English, at which point I know that my pronunciation was clear and correct, and often what the actual meaning is of the words I've just spoken aloud.  I'm hoping this exercise will lead into thinking and expressing my thoughts in Spanish.  I stopped doing Meet Up Spanish-English groups just before our drive west in the summer, and got back into it just before Christmas.  I felt much more fluent, and able to express myself less haltingly.
    The community band is suspended until we see how covid case counts go in January.  Right now we are enduring a fourth wave, this time with the Omicron variant first discovered in S. Africa, having licked the Delta wave from India just before it all went south again.  It continues to play out exactly as the scientists and health professionals told us that it would: our vaccination program, now entering our second booster - fourth jab; Deb and I have had three - has protected most of us from serious illness but the spread of the virus has been like a forest fire ripping through the population. On New Year's Eve we had 16,700 new cases in Ontario, almost as many in Quebec, and large numbers across all of the less populous provinces.  We were told that unless the whole world got vaccinated, new variants would continue to emerge, and sure enough, they have.  And may continue to emerge.
    Speaking of forest fire, a thousand homes were destroyed by fire in Colorado leading up to Christmas.  It's the wrong time of year for it, but there has been a drought in Colorado all fall.  Parts of British Columbia were devastated by fire and flooding this past summer and fall, and are now experiencing large snowfalls in Vancouver and along the coast.  These events were predicted by scientists for decades now, and are being experienced around the world.  We have been very lucky in Toronto, but I wouldn't discount the possibility that we'd suffer from tornadoes eventually since some have damaged nearby communities in previous years and decades, and we've had some wild downdrafts in recent years in Scarborough.  A major ice shelf is expected to break off in the arctic sometime during the next five years, leading to a significant rise in sea level as it melts; much of Florida will be under water, and many other coastal areas around the world.  I'm a bit shocked that people don't move in large numbers; when it happens, it won't be financially feasible for many to move because their real estate will be worthless so they won't be able to buy in a safer location.
    So, that's the state of the globe on this New Year's Day in 2022.  It's not quite feasible for us to take our T@B and drive south, although that was the plan until Omicron emerged.  We'll stay here in pandemic prison one more year, very lucky that we have good food - Deb enjoys getting out to shop - and great internet, a warm cottage to live in and a few hobbies to fill our days.  I spend a little time each day reading my diary from 1983, looking at old photo albums and watching old vhs movies - my own, and my father's. 

2021 November 26th.  In the past month we've completed getting the garden set for winter, and I set up Don's gazebo frame with a transparent tarp and some vinyl panels with see-through windows to try to make a low-rent greenhouse, or at least a space that's sheltered on three sides with a thin tarp on the fourth.  I have little confidence that it'll withstand a severe windstorm, but it's an experiment in extending the season until all my peppers ripen, and providing a sheltered environment for leafy greens that are only somewhat cold-resistant.  In the spring I'll probably take it apart and set up the sailboat winter cover frame that I've had stashed for a few years.  It will make a nice tunnel over the patio entrance way to the back door.  Plant pots can line the walls inside the tarp, and be high enough to harvest, and any heat that escapes through the back door will benefit the inside of the tunnel.

    I played my last tennis game for a while, unless we go indoors to a facility in Pickering once or twice through the winter.  So the only activities left are music twice a week, practicing through the week, and studying Spanish.  My progress at Spanish is glacial.  I began learning it a decade ago but except for a few stabs before winter trips, I never accomplished much more than absorbing some basic vocabulary until I began a more serious daily drill of verbs and youtube instruction during the pandemic.  Last summer I participated in zoom calls with Spanish and English speakers but I needed to have google translate set up on my screen to create things that I could say.  I still can't simply think of the words and conjugations I need to carry on a conversation at normal speed.  I should practice by translating this diary.

    I discovered that Deborah's orchid probably died from watering without drainage.  It got its three ice cubes per week (which probably didn't make the roots happy, because that would have chilled them) but she wasn't aware that one is supposed to drain the container once the ice cubes have melted.  All the leaves yellowed and fell off.  I began going to youtube orchid school every morning, to learn what to do to try to save it.  I learned a lot about growing medium for epiphytes.  I got the necessary materials, repotted it, and set it up finally in a small aquarium where it can get a little more heat and light, and I can monitor the humidity.  I'll water and drain it once a week, and let it dry out properly between waterings.  I put the green rack in the dining room window, with a grow light plus two more from aquariums, and all my small kalanchoes, which I also needed to repot with a heavy mix of vermiculite and perlite to counter the water retention of the crappy soil and clay that they were in.  I'd hardly been watering them at all, but they still had "soggy feet".  Evaporation really slows down in the winter.  I don't know if the orchid will recover, but my fingers are crossed because the roots do look healthy and I've replaced the medium, which had been breaking down over two years.  I hope to see the emergence of a leaf or some other structure by Christmas.

    We've just had our last bi-weekly bento box supper at Don's and Jackie's.  Momiji is doing one more but Don's surgery is on Dec 6th so it is unlikely that he'll be able to enjoy a bento box.  Our third covid shot will happen on Dec 1st.  I'm still waiting for my T@B to be finished - it has been a month.  When we get it back, we'll consider our winter escape.  We'll probably drive south - why have a small trailer if you can never use it?  But we might choose to fly somewhere instead.  One new concern is that news is suddenly building about a new covid strain, the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa (Gauteng), Botswana and Malawi.  A visitor to Hong Kong from S. Africa was carrying the infection.  Markets will be unsettled with this news, and more borders may close.  It's arrival on our shores seems inevitable but mRNA vaccines are adjustable for new variants and since one part of it is similar to the Alpha variant, time will tell whether a new vaccine may be required.  I hope it won't clog our hospitals before Don's surgery.  The biggest lesson from this is that unless and until we have a global vaccine response, variants will create themselves in corners of the world where victims can't clear their systems of the virus, so there will need to be constant vigilance and ongoing response to variants. 

    We could sell the truck and trailer next spring, but it might be a pleasure to visit fiddle camps and have summer adventures in Canada next summer, especially if we sell the Mirage.  The truck would remain useful for a smaller, trailer-able boat if we were to move from HYC back to SBSC.  The little island yacht club complex will become even more important as a get-away for us if we can't leave Canada.

    Sunday morning, Oct 24th.  I spent thirteen hours yesterday at HYC.  After many years working on the tow boat for haul-out and launch, this year they mysteriously reassigned me to the check-in table, so I was warm and comfy.  It was four degrees when we woke up yesterday, and three degrees this morning.  I had to wait after my six hour shift yesterday to see whether my own boat would get lifted, but the crane was still four boats short when the light failed.  We had to drive down in the dark this morning.  I ran the motor until it would idle, and we got lifted shortly after first light.

    Our insurance company sent us to a body repair shop at Heritage Ford but they wanted so much to fix the truck that the insurance company wrote it off.  They offered me a pay-out, which I took, and I got the dents repaired for about a third of their estimate at a smaller shop.  The pay-out more than covered the repair bill and I reduced my insurance to basic liability so I'll save premium going forward.  They'd be more honest if they based their premium each year on how much they'd actually be willing to pay out for the vehicle if it got written off.  They claimed they'd only get $2500 for the truck selling it for parts at auction, but the auto body repair manager at Heritage said, "You wouldn't buy a truck in this shape and year for less than $10,000".  It is very useful, and we've spent money on new hybrid batteries, new brake lines and a trailer towing/braking package, so we're further ahead to keep it, no question about it.  And at the moment, it's the only vehicle we have that can tow the T@B.

    We sold Laurence's Porta-bote for a good price, enough to cover the cost of having our T@B furnace and circuit board repaired.  We took the T@B out to a guy in Bowmanville, and left it there for him to look at.  We're waiting for a quote now.  Booster shots for covid are beginning for people over 65, the third shot, and the U.S. border will be open for land travel on Nov 8th, so we should be able to take our trailer somewhere south to a warm place during the bitter months of winter.  Flying to a warm country may also be an option, but it is still too soon to know.

    Over the past two months the garden has been very successful and we've eaten well.  I've played a lot of tennis and our Wednesday evening play along group at Birchmount CC has been meeting since before we left for Alberta.  We had fourteen participants last week.  I started a string band that met in my back yard for six weeks and is now moving indoors at BCC on Friday afternoons.  We had five musicians playing fiddles, guitars, mandolin, ukuleles and banjos.  Me and Deb, Elizabeth Gratton, David Henderson and Val Cassels, but Val still won't play indoors.  I'm not sure who else will come out to join us, but Patrick will put it in his flyer and we'll see what happens

    Pat and Clare dropped by and we gave them a sage plant and some other plants.  Lissy was here for a breakfast visit, and she and Chris stopped here after they had a weekend together at a cottage in Hastings, where she visited the cottage that Rob built there.  There's no point listing everything else that happened.  I can find the more trivial events by searching my google calendar for those dates if I need a memory refresher.

    We managed one "token sail" on No Egrets before we dropped the mast and put it away for the winter.  Next summer we'll either sail it more often, or sell it.  Or both.

Thursday, Aug 26th.  We spent two weeks on the road in our truck, pulling our T@B trailer to Camrose and Edmonton.  We took Lego to Callum, and gifts to other relatives.  It cost about four times what Swoop Air and a week of car rental would have cost (I did a cost analysis upon our return), and it was a grueling drive: three long days out there and five shorter ones to get home, including a visit with Clare and Pat in Uffington, and Brian and Theresa in Orillia.  It was safer than flying, I'm sure.  But not something I'd want to repeat.  I hope we'll soon get our third covid booster and learn about data that'll make us confident about sharing aerosols with other plane passengers.  The risk then will be, as Deb argued, that if anyone on your plane tests positive, they will make you quarantine on arrival as well, because there are "break-through infections" which allow transmission even from double-vaxxed people who don't feel anything themselves.  Not so dangerous to you, but you can still pass it on to others who are at risk.
    Out west, we saw Mom, Andrew, Heather and Ed. Andrea and Corey, Davin, Erin, Callum and Clara, Dianne, Kris and Miranda, Dylan, Georgiana and Mackenzie, Emily, and Peter who drove up from Comox for a canoe trip in the Wild Hay and to meet his granddaughter for the first time. 
    On the way we saw six moose and a number of deer.  A doe and two fawns waited politely until we came to a stop on the highway, then crossed in front of us.  We surprised a cow moose halfway across.  We learned that sleeping overnight at Walmarts is still a thing, and some towns have free overnight parking.  Russell, Manitoba maintains its Peace Park for overnight visitors, including electricity.  White River, Ontario, has free overnight parking at its Visitor centre, which also has free wifi.  That's the town where Winnie the Pooh was bought by an army lieutenant to be taken to England as a regimental mascot, there to spend his life in the London zoo, where he enchanted Christopher Robin and A.A. Milne.  That was preferable to taking him to the front, I'm sure.
    There were many things I'd have enjoyed seeing along the way - lots of museums, for example, and scenic spots - but we didn't feel we had time to stop.  Smoked fish is largely no longer sold anywhere, and where it is, it is very expensive.  We ate mostly at Macdonald's restaurants.  The T@B was good for us, with its comfortably cushioned King Size bed and insulated walls, but we discovered that the floor is a bit spongy so I'll have to pull up the flooring and reinforce that; and some electricals don't work: the blower for the furnace, and the radio.  I'm not sure about the frig, we didn't try that.  The temperatures seemed unseasonably cold on the prairies.  We woke up to 3 degrees in Russell, Manitoba, which was a fine time to learn that our furnace can't run because the blower won't go.  Other mornings were 9, 12, or 14.  Here in Toronto it has topped 30 degrees for the past three days since we got home.  We might get relief tomorrow - mid-twenties are forecast.
    We had one slow leak in the left tire which I pumped with a bicycle pump until we got home, and will now get repaired.  I pulled the plastic bumper off an old 2005 Accura in the Tera Losa parking lot, and although the damage to my truck looks slight, it might be a total write-off.  We'll be told next week.  We have a $500 deductible, and I don't know if I have "one accident forgiveness" yet.  We experienced some hard shifting after the Northern Ontario hills, by the time we reached Sudbury, because I tried to avoid using the trailer tow button, to save gas (risking transmission damage, of course).  The transmission got hot and the fluid got too thin to do its job.  In one old car I had, you could actually see it foam when it got to that state.  There's some valve lifter noise which I can treat with an oil additive for now.  I'm ambivalent about our choice of trailer.  I was excited when we first saw them on Vancouver Island twenty years ago.  The bed is great but at 1700 lbs compared to a 900 lb Boler, Scamp or Casita, I've decided that I'll unload this if I can find an older, smaller trailer that I can rebuild inside to create a decent sized bed.  A large bed is all we really need in a trailer, along with a place to sit on rainy days, and room to stand up to change clothes.  Stoves, fridges and furnaces are redundant for summer camping.  The RAV is only rated for 1500 lbs; so it won't pull the T@B, but it would do for a Boler or one of its cousins.
    It was good to reconnect in person with the tribe out west.  Zoom doesn't really cut it, compared with an in person visit.  Last night we went back to the community centre for our instrumental play alongs, which was fun - first time I've played the keys in a year and a half.

    Sunday, July 18th.  Yesterday was our Sailpast at HYC.  We were rained out again, but I played Heart of Oak for the flag raising, and accompanied Alex on the violin with my tenor guitar, very inexpertly, by ear. Next time, I'll use a my six string for a fuller sound and more bottom end support for his violin, and proper accompaniment chord charts. The food, from a food truck called in for the purpose, was good but a terrible rip-off in terms of quantity for price, as most previous club special dinners have been. 
    Last Wednesday our community centre guitar group got together for the first time in eighteen months (because of the pandemic lock down) and we played together on Peg Everall's back patio.  There were a dozen of us, I think.  Peg had a large screen tv mounted on a stand with wheels, and everyone could see and play from the same charts.  We chose old favourites from Ozbcoz and the San Jose uke site.  It's the most musical fun I regularly have.  The yacht club remains a bust, musically, with Alex yesterday being the rare exception.
    We were going to sail on Affinity with Don during Sailpast.  It rained anyway, but we couldn't have gone out because Don is ill with prostate/bladder issues that required a trip to Emergency, although he is home now.  We worry and wait to see what the urologist tells him tomorrow  Perhaps there is a surgery in his near future.  We took his prepaid supper choices from HYC to their house for him and Jackie.  Jackie is trapped in the house now taking care of Mary and now Don.  We'd been going to their house every second Wednesday with bento boxes from Momiji.  We'll probably continue doing that, to help Jackie maintain a social life beyond talking to her neighbours on the front lawn.
    Don can't play music in his condition.  We lost Wayne Farrant to Alzheimers this past winter.  I'm not keen to play with Carlos, whose judgment worries me because of his covid decisions.  He's been an anti-vaxxer throughout.  I'll try to move in another direction at the club, if I play there at all.  Possibilities include Alex, Mike and Hope Thomas, and another guitarist, Rory somebody.  But I might need to brush up my keyboard chops, since that's always going to be the instrument that I play the best.  Since keyboard players are less common than guitar players, that instrument is most in demand with fiddlers and violinists, rock or pop combos, or jazz combos.  I might hunt for a more lightweight portable keyboard with an integrated amp and speakers.
    I sold one of my tenor banjos to a fellow in Ottawa, and sent it to him by UPS on Friday.  I'm gradually cutting back on my collection of musical toys, and might focus on keyboard, except for campfire situations, and perhaps the odd swing band or street band situation for jazz standards.  I got fairly proficient during the pandemic lock down with a number of new instruments, but getting better at them may be more difficult because my brain is getting older, and also because as long as I am young and medically insurable I'd rather spend my winters and part of my summers traveling.  I've sold two of my keyboards, a number of accordions, all but one of my guitars, five of my eight fiddles, one of my two tenor banjos, and my trumpet.  I have one remaining keyboard, one trumpet, one guitar, one tenor banjo, one tenor guitar, one five string banjo, one baritone horn, two clarinets, one alto sax, one accordion and three fiddles, only one of which I actually use.  So, fourteen instruments that I still need to whittle back to a useful number of perhaps nine or less.
    The garden is coming along well.  We've had a very rainy July, without too much heat, so by the midpoint of summer my photos of the garden will look great.  We've been eating bush beans for over a week and the pole beans are beginning to produce.   It has been a good year for cucumbers. 
We've eaten two and there are several more large ones on the vines.  We've eaten three zucchinis, and a bumper crop of raspberries - Deb picked 3 litres today.  We have many green tomatoes, but none have turned red yet.
    We had supper at the Sortwells last Saturday for the first time in a year and a half.  It used to be almost a once a month event.  I participated in about five Spanish-English zoom calls and began responding in Spanish to questions they posed.  I continue studying my conjugations every morning for a half hour or more, and I'm gradually increasing my accuracy on a daily twenty question drill of randomly selected verbs, including irregular ones.  This morning I achieved eighty-five percent, although I can only do that by checking my answers before I hit enter, and even then my brain sometimes misses a tense or an irregular spelling. 
    We had an HYC Canada Day celebration which was an opening of sorts at the club, although the interior of the clubhouse was still out of bounds until July 16th when Ontario went into stage three of the re-opening.  It was nothing special, but we ate poutine and smoked meat sandwiches.
    We put on our mast this year, and I've been focusing on little things I can do to tweak the boat back to perfect sail-able condition, which will also make it saleable, and we have decided that we will pursue a sale once it is ready.  I'm reinstalling the aluminum gas tank, repairing the wiring and dual battery system, and generally sprucing it up.  I'll make a web page with photos and features listed.  We're ready to embrace our age, and move back to a smaller boat at SBSC, or none at all until we've moved out west, if that's what we're eventually able to do.  Life is complicated.  We're not certain what we'll end up doing, or how or when we'll end up there.  We may die in place in this house, but that won't be my first choice - neither the dying, nor the house.  I'm ready for a change.

    Monday, June 21st.  Two days ago I saw a photo from 2014 of our train in Vietnam going around the mountain spurs of the Hai Van Pass on the way to Da Nang.  We could see the two locomotives and the first six carriages from our carriage window near the rear of the train.  I've spend a few months during the pandemic lock down reading old letters from my teenage years at private school, home to my parents.  My father saved them all, so now they are like a diary.  I once burned a section of my own diary in a fireplace in a fit of despair about my life, so these are a joy to still have.  Reading them is a deeply reflective experience, humbling and revealing at the same time.  My thoughts at that time explain a lot about the origins of my value system, and the impetus for subsequent choices, both good and bad.  The train photo became a metaphor for this process, looking back at the formative years of my life from my vantage point fifty years later.  There were bumps along the way, but it all worked out, and the old letters are a source of current wisdom.
    We are in the process of repairing wiring for mast head and steaming lights on our sailboat mast, and attaching a new whip antenna at the mast head.  The old whip worked loose and whipped off in the wind, into Lake Ontario, about three years ago.  A replacement whip - a simple thin length of wire of indeterminate metal - cost almost a hundred dollars at the Rigging Shoppe.  We didn't even step our mast last year because of the pandemic, but this year, although launch was delayed a month, we are going ahead with stepping the mast, slowly.  By July 1st we'll have our boat "commissioned" and rigged out, ready to sail.  We still don't have access to our clubhouse, except for the washrooms, but we'll have a celebration on the patio, with extended seating, on Canada Day.
    We've planted just about everything we have room for in our garden.  I was resolved to have a smaller garden this year in order to leave ourselves free to travel, but travel is still not permitted or recommended - although it is coming soon, we believe, except for the looming risk of spread of the Delta covid variant that emerged in India.  So I kept filling the time by filling planter pots.  Many plants are too closely packed with cherry tomato seedlings, and I'm now spending a few daily hours pulling callaloo, clover and other weeds from planter pots and garden.  But we've been eating radishes - my month long crop has come and gone - and perrenial green onions, then hascap berries and leaf lettuce.  We ate radish green soup and a few meals of callaloo, which we also gave away to neighbours.  Swiss chard failed because of leaf miners for the second year, and arugula bolted much too soon, but I turned those planters over with an enormous crop of buttercup squash seedlings.  Bush beans are flowering, peas have formed, and raspberries are preparing for the July fruiting.  We are still eating frozen beans from our freezer, from last year.
    Music still consists of solitary playing in my living room.  Patrick said we could meet at the community centre in a group of up to ten, outdoors, but I only got Peg and Neil interested last week.  I might try again this week.  At home, I enjoy playing my tenor guitar the most and I'm gradually finding all my chords with more and more fluency.  Regular guitar is fun for flat picking bluegrass and "celtic" tunes.  I still play my fiddle and my 5 string banjo although not as much as the tenor guitar.  I play my trumpet to keep my lip in shape, and occasionally my clarinet and my alto sax.  I rarely touch my keyboard but that instrument is like riding a bicycle for me so I'll get to use it when I have an opportunity to play with other musicians.
    I'm planning to spiffy up the sailboat, take photos, and begin the process of selling it - taking people aboard and out on the water.  And we'll spend time digging out all our camping gear and equipping our trailer, having the truck serviced, and preparing for a trip west - in July?  August?  We don't know yet.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Deborah will have to visit her mother and sister in Montreal as soon as they all feel safe to visit.  Since we have all had our second vaccinations now, it shouldn't be long.
    That's how the days are going as we bring in the summer.  Yesterday, the 20th, was the 2021 Summer Solstice.

Monday, May 31st.  I've been able to edit one or two  of my travel diary entries each morning over the past several months, fixing clumsy text and expired links, and adjusting the awful colour in the photos from my little shirt pocket camera on those travels - the neon lime greens, the overly dramatic reds, and the skin tones that looked like angry sunburns. 
    Overnight, Deb and I got email invitations to receive our second dose of Pfizer vaccine, which had previously been scheduled for July 15th.  That's a significant time contraction: from sixteen weeks down to ten weeks.  That means that two weeks from now, the middle of June, we should feel fully protected and able to travel - just when the campgrounds and provincial borders are expected to reopen.  There was some confusion in the instructions about whether we are actually eligible; the info says that people 80+ are eligible, but they did send the invitation to us and we were able to complete the form in spite of entering our birthdates.  Our appointment was honoured without a hitch. 

Wednesday, April 21st.  Some day I'll read this diary and wonder how I filled my days during the Great Pandemic Isolation. Covid19 cases are climbing again and its a race between the vaccination program and the increasing infection rate caused by illogical lock down rules and "covidiots".  Doug Ford's gov't hasn't vaccinated essential workers or shut down non-essential factories, and hasn't instituted sick days so that workers can afford to stay home, so the spread continues.
    Here's a description of my days.  These are incredibly routine cookie cutter days that I follow with regimented discipline using my digital diary.  I'm told that this kind of routine reduces stress during such a time. 
    I rise at six, check stocks reports, study Spanish for a half hour, and spend a half hour "armchair traveling" through my own travel diaries - editing, repairing broken links, viewing my photo albums).  I'm up to March in New Zealand right now.  I spend a half hour reading actual books as opposed to reading online. 
    Deb is usually asleep during these hours; on some days she gets up around 8 am to do fitness classes online, but on other days she sleeps until 9 am.  Throughout the day she shops or plans her shopping, and spends a lot of screen time on the internet.  She spends many long hours helping her mother (who remains isolated in her apartment in Montreal) on a campaign of advocacy for her youngest sister in her group home in Montreal - using remote control to her mother's computer to help her navigate the technology, scan documents and participate in zoom calls and Teams meetings.  Sometimes she helps me in the garden.
    After breakfast I play music throughout the day but my motivation is currently a bit low and I don't get to every instrument in sequence as I did in the initial months of lock down.  I've been able to begin prepping the garden for planting, but our sailboat launch was cancelled and remains TBA.  I played tennis twice but now we are into the third (fourth?) wave and we have also been locked out of our tennis courts.  In any case, today we woke up to a thick late spring snow fall.
    Later each day I review some family history (old letters), spend a few minutes learning basic Portuguese, and take mid-afternoon and after-supper naps.  I find youtubes that are interesting to watch or to play along to with my instruments, and I advertise and sell things from my basement to reduce the household clutter: guitar cases, instruments, lawn mowers, bicycles, etc.
    Then I sleep for six hours and get up to begin the same day all over again - just like the movie Groundhog Day.

Thursday, March 25th.  Today Deborah was able to make an appointment for her vaccine.  She completed pre-screening forms for both of us and I drove her to the immunization site.  She asked everyone at each step of her way in whether I could get mine as well, but I was not in the allowed age cohort and they all said no.  Then she reached the doctor who would administer the jab, and it turned out to be someone from our own local clinic.  The doctor told her that they weren't in the business of turning people away, and that anyone over fifty with a co-morbidity would certainly be allowed to come in for a shot.  As soon as Deb got home, she discovered that the registration page had also been updated in our absence and now co-morbidity had been included; and also faith leaders who come into close contact with grieving family members and others.
    The days have been somewhat uniform over the past six weeks.  Weekly family zoom calls on Saturdays, and zoom calls with Camila and Gabriel in Sao Paulo on Mondays.  Trumpet training and chats with Andrew Chung every couple of weeks.  Spanish every morning, a bit of Portuguese daily, some daily reading (Obama's book Dreams From My Father right now), and readings of my own family history from Dad's letter archive. 
    We won a St. Patrick's Day quiz at a zoom social, online with our HYC club.   
    I got back into advertising my extra instruments and selling them off, played my instruments in rotation every day, and recorded a few tunes including La Cumparsita and Vida Mia for Valentines Day.  I learned to make things easier for myself when playing fiddle tunes on guitar by using my capo on the second fret for most tunes in D and A, but that presented me with a new challenge: learning new fingerings.  That has checked my speed back considerably.
    Two weeks ago we drove across the city and came home with my first tenor guitar, only three years old and in lovely shape, for half of retail (they seem quite overpriced by Gold Tone, but not many people make them - or play them).  It took me several days of research and two packs of strings, one for tenor guitar purchased in error which turned out to be for the higher CGDA tuning, to get it strung in the GDAE tuning that I wanted, to match my "Irish" tenor banjo.  I had to mix and match to get the gauges I needed; they make GDAE string sets for tenor banjo but not the bronze wound string set for tenor guitar, I've discovered.  But although initially disappointed with how it sounded, with the correct strings and gauges it has now become my go-to instrument, very resonant and rich.   At first I only used it melodically, but now I'm trying to learn all my new chord shapes because they sound fine.  Guitar chords are often muddy because there are six notes relatively close together; this has only four, and the intervals are larger than on the guitar.  It means that I've had to learn four current sets of chord shapes for the different instruments; I also learned uke shapes some time ago but have largely forgotten them now..
    We had to shovel snow once or twice, but it is all gone now and temperatures remain mostly above zero even overnight, so we've been taking daily walks when it feels sunny and cheerful enough.  I tried to start pepper seeds that Deb saved from last year, but they haven't emerged from seed after almost three weeks.  I'll be patient...and I'll start tomatoes soon.  I have been able to begin working in the garden, moving pots around, visualizing and planning - but I expect to be prepping the trailer and truck for a summer on the road, more than spending time in my garden.

Wednesday, February 10th.  The cases of covid19 are dropping and jurisdictions across the country are tentatively reopening, although there are dangerous mutations and variants on the loose and vaccine roll-out has been glacial.  We will have to remain isolated and extremely cautious for a few more months, perhaps even another year; but I'm still optimistic that we'll get to take our T@B trailer across the country this summer.  Deborah has continued to amass enormous quantities of donated wool from Facebook connections with neighbours, for Sylvia to turn into toques and headbands for homeless people in Montreal.  I continue studying Spanish and a little Portuguese each day, and practice my nine instruments - when we are free to leave our house I'll hunt down opportunities to play the new ones with other people. I advertised and sold a few guitars and my guitalele, and a few other things like my collapsible fishing rod kit. 
    Over Christmas and the New Year, we recorded a series of short amateurish music videos dedicated to friends and family, and posted them to a youtube channel, from which everyone can enjoy them. I can use these videos later to demonstrate my musical gifts to people who might consider playing with me.  
    February has been brutally cold all across the country.  It has been around minus ten here and has reached the minus thirties and below in Alberta; I plan to record Frost is All Over on Irish tenor banjo today.  The cold has put pause to our daily walks.  Deborah chose haggis for her birthday meal, and it lasted for four meals, so we'll be doing it again for Valentine's Day.  We like haggis very much.  Deborah has experimented with other culinary revelations: Chakalaka (a S. African spicy vegetable relish) and Bombay Rolls, for example.  She found a design for better aerosol masks and made five of them, more shaped to our faces, so that air doesn't enter or leave around the edges, and with a fold that reduces fogging on our glasses on cold days,   I've forced myself to spend time each day reading books instead of just my internet screen, to try to make inroads on the huge collection of books I've accumulated over the years, including those I dragged home from Dad's bookshelves.  We continue our weekly zoom calls with family and with Camila and Gabriel in Sao Paulo.  I usually nap twice a day now, which might be a sign of age but could also be a symptom of the emotional toll of isolation. 

Friday, January 1st.  Pandemic lock down continued to notch up after Canadian Thanksgiving, with rise in Covid cases to the point where by Christmas, hospital staff were quite worried that they'd suffer a collapse in the system after the Christmas surge which they know is coming.  Too many people ignore the restrictions, including several prominent provincial politicians who think that they're better than all the people that they insist should stay home, and take vacations to Caribbean islands and elsewhere...and then get fired upon their return.  People interviewed at airports (and the aforementioned politicians) insist that they are going to a safe vacation where they'll be physically distanced from people, but willfully ignore the reality of their plane ride with recycled aerosols and no real physical distancing.  They are gas lighting themselves, and are a danger to our society.  Our friends Lloyd and Esther fooled themselves into believing that they'd be safe to return to the U.S. to visit family, with masks and lots of hand washing, but they both got sick, and Lloyd died. 
     The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have finally arrived, but the roll-out was slower than we'd hoped, in our country and several others.  Latest speculation is that Deb and I might get ours by July, which would allow us to take our trailer to western Canada to visit family that we've only been able to meet on weekly Zoom calls.  Mind you, we've had more regular contact over Zoom than we had before the pandemic arrived.
    Deborah has almost recovered from a slip on the stairs leading to our basement..  She was carrying two chairs and moving too quickly, and her feet went out from under her.  She bumped on her bum down four stairs, and had a massive contusion that lasted for weeks.  It is only now disappearing.  My own health is ok except that a six month routine blood test suddenly alarmed us with high glucose levels.  They'd crept up over two years and had begun to spike over the past six months in spite of careful diet, sixteen hour daily fasts (for three years now), only two meals a day, no wine or juices - only black coffee and water.  I'm trying to tame the glucose now with more resolute daily walking and maximum allowable metformin, but I suspect that next week the doctor will shift me to a medication that isn't considered as safe as metformin but that stimulates cells in the pancreas to pump out insulin.  I can't say if it was lifestyle or just age, but it seems that my pancreas may be weakening, which has me slightly concerned about my travel plans for coming winters.  Still, I've seen a great deal of the world already and it does seem inevitable that at some point I will have to age gracefully into tamer destinations such as Florida and the southern U.S. 
    We've had a couple of snowfalls but nothing too exciting, and temperatures remain above normal heading into January.  The nightly lows are forecast at the 30 year average highs for the next fortnight.
    Deborah stopped her weekly volunteer role at the food bank a few weeks ago.  There's a new covid variant that is much more transmissible, and we both decided it isn't worth the risk, at our ages.  Except when she shops, we stay home all the time.  Deborah built several mousetraps but didn't catch a mouse with them; only the old fashioned Victory traps eliminated our fall mouse problem.  Now we have a problem with rats tunneling through the front garden, attracted by the food that birds throw down from the bird feeder.  We've enjoyed the bird feeder, but now we're trying to figure out how to eliminate the rats.  Deborah got a larger size Victory trap, but rats are too smart for that; she killed a squirrel instead.  We've enclosed two traps in a box that only a rat should be able to get into, but so far haven't caught one.  We're going to try rolling moth balls or dry ice down their burrows; and Deborah made some balls of food that is supposedly indigestible by rats and causes death, but I haven't seen any evidence that it works.  The bird feeder has come down; we have suet cakes up for the chickadees (and the athletic problem-solving squirrels), but nothing for sparrows or other birds until we solve the rat problem.  At least they stay outside.
    For the second time, we did a couple of videos of songs for Hector Catre's online fundraiser for the Scarborough Food Security Initiative, along with other local artists - essentially, online virtual busking for charity.  He raised about $2500 this time.  He didn't plan it out very well, though - had a number of technical glitches and a late start, and had only asked for two songs from us, but contributed a half dozen himself, so it turned into "the Hector Show", with his out-of-tune singing solo performances. 
    At Christmas, Deb and I recorded a series of "musical gifts" for family members, about one per day through Christmas week.  We'll do another six or so before we're done, and then I don't know what we'll do.  I'll keep practicing my instruments, of course, and my Spanish and Portuguese.  I used my fiddle and Irish tenor banjo for most of the half dozen tunes we did - Saddle the Pony for Heather and Ed, Out on the Ocean for Peter and Christina, Ook Pik Waltz for Miranda and family, Country Waltz for Mom, Maid Behind the Bar for Emily, Billy in the Lowground for Dylan (we renamed it Dylan in the Lowground).  We did Auld Lang Syne on trumpet and uke with vocals yesterday.
    We finished our last tomatoes about two weeks ago (the indoor window-ripening ones) but we are still eating Bishop's Crown peppers as they turn red, from two plants that we brought indoors just before the first frost.  We have five that are still growing in the dining room window.  And our green onions continue to grow - I get them with my breakfast every other day.