Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Once upon a time in the West (of Ottawa, but still in Ontario, (part three,

[see part one here; part two here]

Friday, July 28, 2023: I should have mentioned our visit the prior afternoon to Story Book Land, to meet up with Andrea, a friend of Christine’s we haven’t seen in a few years, so we could meet their two-year-old, also. The three young ladies ran a couple of hours through the park, catching a mix of storybook characters, child-sized rides and a small waterpark. The focus was for an age group a bit younger than Rose (and there was at least one ride she was too tall for), but that was fine enough. Rose attended the two-year-old, and Aoife ran through a plethora of rides on her own (as I followed, although the rides safe enough that attendants don’t seem to be awaiting parental permissions to put kids through). There was even an assemblage of animals, including rabbits, and deer that screamed such screams as they must have stories told of them involving ghosts or demons (or both). Unsettling. But Aoife and I finally used that quarter we found at the Big Apple on DAY ONE of our big ridiculous trip to collect corn to hand-feed them.

This morning, on our way out of town, we hit that same park a second time, to meet up with another friend of Christine’s, who drove a two-hour stretch to meet up with us there, along with her own daughter, nearly as old as Rose. The three of them ran as a trio through multiple rides and even the water-slides. Does anyone remember the late Storyland park just outside of Ottawa, in Renfrew? It was similar to this place, except sans the rides or waterpark or train: simply (semi-creepy) fairy tale characters set in the woods that, after a number of years, had begun to erode. I think we went there as kids, and again, once Kate was small. It eroded completely not long after that.

From there we headed direct to Woodstock, to visit my Aunt Pam and Uncle Don, as well as my cousin Kent. A two-and-a-half hour drive. We passed so many small towns on the turn upon turn of highways, including Shakespeare, which I had no idea existed. Founded in 1832, it was renamed some twenty years later, after someone suggested renaming after the infamous playwright. We saw numerous cemeteries along the route as well, including a couple of cemeteries that had small square clusters of ancient white gravestones in a block, as though moved from some other site. Why are cemeteries, at least from out that way, moved at all? I would like an answer from someone on this.

Pam is the last of my mother’s siblings, and the next in line from my mother’s third-of-seven. Don was the minister we solicited to conduct our wedding, who also conducted my sister’s, as well, and a number of family funerals over the years. It was very good to see them without a funeral, and the weddings have become sparse and scattered as the further generations spread apart (and the first time they’d met Aoife, as well as the second time they’d seen Rose). The last time we were in their house was their fiftieth anniversary a few years ago, when I couldn’t get toddler Rose to stop running around (even though she was relatively quiet, she would not sit still, happily exploring the room at full speed). Apparently they considered her a delight! An equal, I suppose, to when I brought toddler Kate to their elder son (my cousin) Kayle’s wedding in London back in 1993 or so. And Pam even said we were staying in the same hotel! Which I wouldn’t have remembered. And then over to London! To crash at the hotel.

London, Ontario! The land of Greg Curnoe (1936-1992) and Christopher Dewdney’s A Palaeozoic Geology of London, Ontario (Coach House, 1974) and The Nihilist Spasm Band! Jean McKay! The origins of Brick Books and Brick: A Literary Journal! Oh, London!

Saturday, July 29, 2023: Woke, in London, Ontario. Everyone slept in except Christine, who had to be at her conference at 8am. The rest of our trio woke slowly, and lounged in our room. We lounged, went for lunch, and drove an hour to Norwich, to do some further visiting. We spent the whole afternoon as the young ladies met up with some pigs (they smell so bad! they said), ducks, chicken and even some newly-hatched quail. It was a good afternoon, before we headed back downtown to meet Christine and her conference for dinner at a local pub. I posted to BlueSky that we were there, and (semi-accidental) book blogger Sarah (literal_nobody) caught that we were in town, and asked if she could come get a book signed? Sure! And she spent the whole time delighting in our young ladies, and in deep conversation. The children wrote her poems and stories and Rose told a wealth of stories. Rose seemed very pleased to be involved in grown-up conversation.

Back at the hotel, ridiculously late, as our young ladies howled at the London moon. How many nights might it take, I wonder, to get them back into their normal sleeping routines?

Sunday, July 30, 2023: We woke in London, slowly. What did we do? It all seems a blur, now. We made sure the children had breakfast before a quick visit to the hotel pool as I packed up the car, given our 11am check-out. They changed, and we headed off. On our way out of town we made a quick stop at the late London, Ontario artist Greg Curnoe’s infamous house at 38 Weston Street—the same plot of land he wrote about in his infamous Deeds/Abstracts: The History of a London Lot (Brick Books, 1995)—for a pilgrimage, catching a view of the Victoria Hospital (subject of more than a couple of his paintings) en route. Do folk make art pilgrimages to hospitals? I suppose, I did see a bpNichol/Barbara Caruso work while visiting my father in the Heart Institute a few years ago [see that post here]. Since my twenties, the contemporary works by such as Curnoe or Roy K. Kiyooka have always been the ones I checked out first at the National Gallery of Canada. Have you ever seen that mural he did for the Montreal airport? There’s a whole story there. I think George Bowering wrote about that, somewhere (he helped install the piece, originally).

And we drove through Milton! That’s where Jason Christie is from!

And to Toronto, where we land at the airport-ish hotel to drop our things, shuttle to the airport and train downtown for the sake of a few hours wandering the Aquarium. Andy Weaver (famous Burlington poet) and his family were watching a Blue Jays game simultaneously, so we had originally thought (a week earlier) that perhaps that might be a time and space to meet up (we were literally next door), but that didn’t quite work out either. Ah well. We wandered the aquarium and then to the gift shop as the children argued, wandered back through the aquarium to the play centre, which they didn’t like, and back to the gift shop where the children argued some more. Everyone is tired! All my bones from the waist below have begun to ache. What has become of us?

And slowly back on the train and the shuttle to hotel, where we had room service and a quiet evening doing whatever it is we all do. I wrote out some postcards, and the young ladies did also. Should we check out the pool?

Oh, and this building is mine now. I don't care what it holds.

Monday, July 31, 2023: Leaving Toronto for Picton, where we are most likely overnight and dropping our young ladies. Everything moves slow. The theory is we drop the kids at father-in-law’s for the week as we head back ourselves Tuesday morning, so Christine can return to work. Presuming all works well with that plan, we’ll see them again come Saturday.

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