Ode to an Elevator….

Sean and I have been doing university tours all summer. Not that it’s going to make a difference, because he’s already decided where he’s going and why, but we’re at least going through the motions of “making a choice”. We’ve been to University of Ottawa, U of Waterloo, Wilfred Laurier, and yesterday we romped around my own alma mater, McMaster.

He didn’t say, but I think I impressed him by being able to take him directly to the building we needed without checking a map. And that was after discovering that none of the parking lots were still where I’d left them 30 years ago when I graduated! They have been replaced with new buildings, and we ended up parking in an underground lot beneath the football field! How clever!

There has been a lot  of growth and development at Mac over the years, but it is still the same comfortable campus I loved. University Hall is still covered in ivy, Mills Library is still intimidating, and Burke Science Building is still way too far away from the arts quad. Yeah, there’s a story behind that one. As an arts student, I spent the majority of my time in two buildings so you can imagine my surprise when I got my timetable at the beginning of third year and discovered one of my classes was in “BSB”. What the heck? BSB???? What’s THAT? I did figure it out, and I found it, but it was a pain to have to scamper all the way over there from the arts quad!

At the end of our tour we headed back to the car. Our route took us through the arts quad. Of course it did. On impulse I dragged Sean into the lobby of Togo Salmon Hall. (yes, that really is its name) I pointed at three metal chairs and a table in a corner.

“See those chairs? That’s where my friends and I spent much of our free time in first year. I swear, they are the same chairs, just painted.”
He nodded politely.
“And the elevator. There’s a story behind that elevator.”
He looked at me, obviously humouring me.
“When I was in first year English, one of our assignments was to write a sonnet. Yeah, a sonnet. I thought this was a singularly dumb assignment. I mean, seriously, who writes sonnets anymore?”
He laughed.
“So I had a brilliant idea. I was sitting there watching the elevators open and close and I decided to write a sonnet about an elevator.”
Sean was listening now, incredulous.
“I called it ‘Ode to an Elevator’, and much to my surprise, I got a really good mark on it!”
Sean laughed, and as we headed out the doors he asked if I wanted a photo with my elevator. He told me my story would make a great blog post, and I should include a photo of me with my elevator. I laughed it off, telling him not to be silly, and we left.

In retrospect, I should have listened to my son. I am feeling rather wistful that I didn’t pause long enough for him to take that photo. It would have been the perfect accompaniment for the first stanza of that sonnet, which is unfortunately all I can remember. Although I guess remembering even ONE stanza after thirty-odd years is pretty impressive……

“Oh thou lofty metal box,
He sits to watch thee rise.
And knows not how, thy door – it locks!
However hard he tries.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amsterdam

I was so excited about this trip overall, but one of the really big things for me was spending time in Amsterdam with Mimi, and finally having her meet Stephen. I knew she’d like him – I mean, what’s not to like, right? We were to arrive in Amsterdam Thursday morning, and would have Thurs, Fri and part of Sat with Mimi. We would check into our ship Sat afternoon, but then the ship would remain in Amsterdam overnight, and there would be sightseeing in Amsterdam on Sunday courtesy of Avalon.

We flew overnight to Schipol Airport, caught a train to the city center, and snagged a taxi to take us to our beautiful hotel, Die Port Van Cleve. We had booked rooms for both Mimi and us, but Mimi had been sick the few days leading up to the trip, so we were all worried she wouldn’t be able to make it. However, she valiantly fought off her cold and fever and arrived at the hotel about 3:30. So excited to see her! Stephen liked her right off – but then, I knew he would. We left the hotel to explore and meander our way in search of dinner, as we planned an early night. Our hotel was right off Dam Square, directly behind the Royal Palace so we headed in that direction first. Stephen and I both loved the architecture. I’m going to jump ahead and share some stuff we learned during our canal tour on Sunday. We noticed that many of the houses seemed to be leaning forward, and we learned that this was actually done on purpose. The houses were tall, usually four to five stories, and at the top of each house was a hook extending out from the hip of the roof. Many of the houses along the canals were owned by merchants who would store their goods in the upper floors of their homes. This hook was to facilitate transporting those goods by allowing them to be hauled up outside the house instead of carrying them up multiple staircases. And the houses leaned forward slightly so the bales or cartons of whatever wouldn’t bang off the house on their way up! Now, many of the houses also lean to one side or the other as well, but that’s simply age and settling. No fascinating story there.

After some time of meandering, admiring, and enjoying, we found a lovely little Italian restaurant for dinner. There was an upper level that was more like a balcony, and we sat against the railing looking down over the main entrance. Although I knew a lot of English is spoken and understood in the Netherlands, I don’t think either of us was fully prepared for just how much it is spoken and used in Amsterdam. Almost all of the “Help wanted” signs were in English! In fact, when our waitress came to take our order, Stephen and I ordered in English, because the menu was in both English and Dutch, but when Mimi ordered in Dutch the waitress looked at her blankly and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Dutch.” Whoops. The food was delicious. I think it was probably the best lasagne I’ve ever had. After dinner we meandered our way back to the hotel and crashed for the night. After agreeing to meet at 8 in the lobby for breakfast the next morning.

So…about that breakfast. Yeah, we kind of didn’t make it. We slept in. As in, I woke up at 8:09. Mimi was quite good natured about it, and just laughed at us when we finally did get down for breakfast. That day our plan was to tour the Rijksmuseum. Somehow in the planning for this trip, I seemed to have missed that it was exclusively an art museum. I was kind of expecting – oh, I don’t know – history maybe? So yeah. Art. I tried so hard to be a good wife and be patient and wait while Stephen had a wonderful time. Luckily there were lots of couches where Mimi and I could sit and look like we were engrossed in some particular piece while we waited for him to catch up to us. I’m just not an art person. I like stuff on my walls, and I know what I like, and most people would not describe what I like as “art” but that’s ok. There was a  huge crowd around a painting by Rembrandt – The Night Watch, I believe it was called. It’s supposed to be famous. It’s supposed to be wonderful. I stood there and wondered what all the fuss was about. It’s a picture. Move on folks.

After the museum we had a late lunch. Once again Stephen and I were able to order in English, and once again when Mimi placed her order in Dutch she was met with “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Dutch. I’m trying to learn though!” We just laughed and she switched to English. I think after lunch we napped for a bit, then met up to go out in search of dinner. Stephen and I were in the mood for a steak, but with Mimi being vegetarian we had to choose our restaurant carefully, so once again there was a lot of fun meandering around the streets of Amsterdam as we searched for dinner. We had stopped outside an Argentinian steak house to review the posted menu when one of the waitresses popped out to greet us and invite us in. That happens a lot in Amsterdam. Mimi explained – in Dutch – that we were checking the menu to see if they had vegetarian options, and when the waitress said apologetically, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Dutch,” we knew we had to eat there. And they did indeed have a vegetarian option for Mimi, and it looked delicious! I ordered a filet mignon, and I have to say, it was the best steak I have ever had. Anywhere. I thought the steak we had in Orlando with Sean was the best, but this one topped even that! So good!

The next morning we packed our bags and left them with the concierge to pick up later, and headed out to try a restaurant other than the hotel for breakfast. No problem that, and we were quickly seated at a table in a very old building. Then again, this was Amsterdam; all the buildings are very old. Along came our waitress and we held our collective breath as Mimi bravely tried ordering in Dutch. And behold! We had finally found the only waitress in Amsterdam who spoke Dutch! It was so exciting we almost forgot what we wanted to eat!

That day’s adventure was the Maritime Museum, or Het Scheepvaartmuseum, as it is in Dutch. We took a tram, as we had done the day before. If you go to Amsterdam, their tram system is fabulous! Inexpensive, easy to navigate, ready access to the whole city. Mimi has a train pass, as she rides the train to work every day, and her train pass is valid on the Amsterdam tram and bus system. We were most impressed.

The Maritime Museum was really cool. Very interactive – if you wanted to know about something, you pushed a button, or opened a door and a voice told you about whatever you were viewing. We really enjoyed it, but unfortunately ran out of time before we could tour the replica trading ship from the East India Trading Company. Guess we’ll just have to go back…

We said our farewells to Mimi at the main train station, and headed back to pick up our luggage and snag a taxi to the hotel where we were to meet for our cruise. The meeting point was quite well organized – a lovely big room with a view of the waterfront, with seating and drinks and some snacks. We signed in at the desk, they took our luggage, which was then whisked off to the ship, and we waited until everyone who was supposed to be there was there, at which point they loaded us into buses and took us to the ship. Our bags were in our room already, so we unpacked and organized everything into the tiny space. I was delighted with the flowers Stephen had preordered for our anniversary! They were vibrant and beautiful, and lasted the entire week we were aboard! I regretted having to leave them behind at the end!

I’ve already discussed our impressions of the ship, so I’ll move along to the next morning and our first experience with Avalon excursions.We were to report to the main lobby by 8:30 where we picked up our receivers. We each had a small earpiece that fit over our ear and was remarkably comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The quality of the sound was excellent as well. The earpiece plugged into a receiver which picked up the transmissions from our guide’s microphone. Each receiver had a different coloured band – red, blue, yellow or green. Whatever colour you had determined which bus you went on. If you had a blue band, you rode on the bus with a blue window sign, and your guide carried a blue flag. And so on.

This morning’s excursion was a canal boat ride, which was delightful! The boat was low and flat – all the better to fit under those low bridges! – and the seating was comfortable enough. It was quite fascinating seeing Amsterdam from the water. A totally different perspective. Our guide gave us a great deal of information about the buildings we were seeing, and the construction of the canals in general. Overall, a great morning.

In the afternoon we went on an additional excursion to Muiderslot Castle. With a river cruise, unlike an ocean cruise, the majority of your excursions and sightseeing is included in your fare. There are a few exceptions of additional excursions for which you pay extra. If you choose not to do this, you can simply remain on board and enjoy the (limited) amenities of the ship. We chose to do the castle tour. It is quite a distance from Amsterdam, but we learned a lot from the guide en route about the expansion of the city as Amsterdam is reclaiming more land and building more housing and businesses. With the distance, it was a short visit to the castle itself, but as we were a guided group we were allowed into parts that most visitors apparently can’t enter. At the end of the tour we had some free time, then were bused back to the ship which cast off at 5 heading for Cologne, and we felt as if our river cruise honeymoon had truly begun.

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A Brief Digression – but still topical.

One of our excursions in Germany was an incredibly scenic mountain bus ride in the Black Forest Region. The primary purpose of this trip must have been scenery, but we somehow ended up at a cuckoo/souvenir shop in the middle of nowhere. Now how did that happen?

I was drooling over some exquisite Christmas ornaments when I heard Stephen behind me.
“Hey hun, how about we get this for N?” (That would be Miles Catowner’s little daughter, she who pulls Fluffy’s tail and makes him flee to our house for sanctuary.) He was holding a small fluffy bear. In lederhosen. The bear was in lederhosen, not Stephen.
“Sure!” I said, and went back to my drooling.

The bear accompanied us home, and Stephen was going to take it over to Miles’ house the other day. He was putting it into a bag when he noticed something odd.

“Hey hun, there’s something wrong with this bear.”
“Hmmm?” I looked up from making breakfast.
“It’s got something weird in its back.”
That got my full attention. I went over to him and took the bear.
“See, there.” And he pointed to an opening in the bear’s back, closed with Velcro.

Now, you have to realize, Stephen never had kids. He does not understand what all parents instinctively know – Velcro openings in the backs of fluffy critters are never good. I turned the bear over. Tummy or paw? Paws were too small, so it had to be tummy. I squeezed the bear’s tummy.

It yodeled. The. Bear. Yodeled.
Repeatedly.

I handed the still-yodeling creature back to Stephen and returned to my breakfast, remarking casually as I did, “You do realize Miles is going to kill you for this one, right?”

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Honeyversary part two

Chronologically I should first talk about our time in Amsterdam with Mimi, but there’s so much swirling around in my head about the ship and our take on it that I want to get that sorted out first. So here goes.

Neither of us had ever done a river cruise so had no idea what to expect. We’ve done ocean cruises, but everyone said you just can’t compare the two, and they’re right. We tried to go in with open minds, and we knew no matter what, we’d have fun, simply because we do.

The ship was brand new, launched in early 2016, and it was immaculate. It shone from bow to stern. Our stateroom was just as immaculate. The outer wall was wall to wall, floor to ceiling window, with sliding doors that opened so you could feel like you were on a balcony without losing the space a balcony would take up.The bed was oriented so that if we were rivering along, you could sit or lie in the bed and watch the scenery go by. I’m sure someone has complained on a TripAdvisor review that the doors are awkwardly situated – if the closet doors were open you couldn’t get out of the bathroom, and if you tried to open the bathroom and main stateroom doors at the same time – well, oops. However, we soon figured it all out and just laughed about it. Our cabin steward was very friendly and did an incredible job of keeping our room clean and tidy for us.

The main thing we were disappointed in was the food. I’ll state up front that part of it was my own fault because I truly am a fussy eater, but generally even on the most restrictive menus I can find something to enjoy.However even Stephen was disillusioned by the food. The breakfast buffet was the same every day, with only one hot dish changing each day. One day we had meatballs for breakfast, another we had hash browns, and several other things appeared randomly. There was plenty of breads, fruit, yogurt, cereals, cheeses and cold cuts, and we could have hard or soft boiled eggs, crispy or limp bacon, scrambled eggs and sausage every day. I fell into the habit of making a sort of club sandwich every morning with toast, a sliced egg, ham, cheese and bacon, then following it up with some fruit.

Lunch was usually a hot buffet, generally including some local specialties, but the breads, cheese, cold cuts, salads and fruit were still available. Lunch was by far the best meal, and I found I tended to eat a much larger lunch than I usually do because the dinners were so lackluster and took so flipping long that I was hungry again by the time I’d finished dessert.

And dinner. For dinner there is no assigned seating, which is rather nice, except that the first few days you spend moving around trying out different people to see who you get along with the best. The first two dinners were nothing short of tedious. Our first night we were joined by a younger couple from Australia – nice enough kids but nothing in common. The second night we sat with a flock from the States – a retired lawyer and his travelling companion, and a girl who worked for the State Department who was travelling with her mom. The mom was silent all through dinner, but the daughter more than made up for her – and us – and the lawyer. She just wouldn’t shut up. We didn’t sit with them again. By the third night we were so disillusioned with ship dinners, that we decided to remain in Cologne and find a little restaurant on our own. We didn’t have to be back aboard till 9:45, so we had plenty of time. We had a lovely pasta dish followed by traditional apple strudel for dessert – the only time, I might add, that we had strudel. You’d think on a primarily Germany based cruise, strudel would have been offered for dessert at least once. But no. By the fourth day we had met our new friends from England, and began to share all our meals with them. By the fifth day we had claimed our own table and god help anyone who tried to sit there. And there were those who wished to join us by that point. We had all hit it off so well that we were telling jokes and sharing funny stories and there was so much laughter at our table that heads would turn throughout the dining room to see what was going on. Our comfort level increased, and there was no pretentiousness among us. If we thought dinner sucked, we freely admitted it to one another. One night Janet had the fish and it was the teeniest piece of fish you’ve ever seen in your life! She wasn’t impressed. I saw it before she started eating and to me it looked like fillet of goldfish. Another night I had a chicken breast. No chicken breast that! Rather, it was a sparrow breast! Very disappointing.

The main problems were the lack of choices, the portion sizes, and the duration of the meals. It took over two hours for dinner, start to finish. We also didn’t care for having to place our dessert order before we’d even had anything to eat. How were we to know what we would feel like for dessert? There were usually three or four appetizer selections, most of which involved fish, which I don’t like, but caesar salad was always available. Thankfully. There were then two soup choices, one consomme, the other creamy. It was the general conclusion at our table by the end of the week that they made the same soups every day, just added different colours and called them different names. There were usually only two choices for the main course and one of them was always a fish dish. Every single night the other choice had something in it I didn’t like – usually mushrooms. Luckily there were always standard options like steak, chicken, fish or a vegetarian selection. I ate a lot of steak. As in every night. Well, except for the night we were in Cologne and the night I had the sparrow breast. At least the steak was a decent size portion! It came with a baked potato and a few bits of green beans wrapped in bacon. By the last night I believe our entire table of six had given up on the menu and we all had steak for dinner. There were usually several choices for dessert -a cheese platter which had maybe two morsels of cheese, two crackers and a grape; a serving of ice cream consisting of two scoops the size of melon balls – no, not melons, you know the little scoops you use to make those tiny melon balls? Yeah, that big. There was also usually a cake sliced so thin you could see through it.

I found that with the meager serving sizes and the length of time between courses, I was always hungry by about midnight. Of course we had no snacks in our stateroom, which led us to go out one day in search of potato chips or something – anything – snackable. Our friends thought this was great fun, and the six of us were romping all over – oh, I don’t remember, some German city – looking for crisps, as they called them. We were successful – Stephen and I found pretzel sticks and candy bars, and Helen and Janet returned with a small can of Pringles! We had such fun with the search! On the final night when we went down to dinner, there was something strange on our table. The others maneuvered us so that Stephen had to sit in the place containing a large paper bag tied closed with ribbons. When he opened it, we discovered multiple packages of various flavours of crisps! The others had remained behind that afternoon while we did an optional excursion, and they wandered around the town of Breisach in search of crisps for us! Needless to say we had a huge laugh over that. And the crisps were appreciated! We snacked on them in Zurich and had none left by the end of the trip!

So back to dinners. There was also an additional course several nights which offered no choice. Twice we started with some sort of pate served on a spoon which looked oddly like one of those round handled baby spoons. You could barely taste whatever was on it. And twice there was a seafood dish handed to everyone. The first time it was a prawn thing and I managed to stop the server from giving me one. But the second time it was lobster and I was the first one served. I had my back to the kitchen so didn’t see it coming until it sailed past my nose and landed in front of me! I hate the smell of lobster. To me it’s positively nauseating. I reared away and literally pushed my chair back. Stephen and I both tried to get the server’s attention to take it away, but she didn’t see us. I decided that would be a suitable point at which to quietly leave the table to fetch my camera from my room. I dawdled, but when I returned the lobster was still underway. Stephen had finished his, put his empty dish at my spot, and started in on mine. I sat down, but the smell was still bothering me. I pushed the dish as far forward as I could. One of our friends, Peter, noticed I was obviously bothered by it, so he motioned for me to give him my dish, which I did, and he stacked it neatly with his, far away from me. Thank you, Peter!

There was really no other food available on board aside from meals. In both lounges there was a coffee maker that produced anything coffee-ish imaginable, including mind-blowing creamy hot chocolate, and there were usually cookies, muffins and doughnuts available there as well but that was it.

I had planned to talk about the excursions, scheduling, and our annoying cruise director now, but it’s lunch time and all this talk of food has made me hungry. Time to eat. And it won’t be lobster….

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Honeyversary trip, part one

Before I start talking about my trip, I need to digress and get something off my chest.

I have many American friends – no, this isn’t about The Donald – whom I love dearly. They are funny, they are smart, they are great people. But I have learned that not all Americans are as wonderful as my friends, so I just have to ask – why on earth do they only let the totally moronic Americans travel outside of the country? Americans have a reputation for being nasty tourists – loud, rude, demanding – and truthfully, you far too often see that stereotype being perpetuated by American tourists.

Here are a few who really should have stayed at home…

We arrived at the hotel where we were supposed to check in for our river cruise. From this hotel we would be bused to the ship, and our luggage would be sent over ahead of us. It was lovely – a big room with tables, snacks and drinks, and a full view of the waterfront. We joined a harmless looking couple at a table. Her name was Dana, his name was Al, and we were told to remember them as “D’n’A” from Pittsburg. He had no sense of humour, the personality of a dead fish, and the social graces of a tarantula. She spent her time trying to overcompensate for his failings, becoming seriously off-putting in her efforts. We telepathically agreed to avoid this couple onboard.

We were joined by two ladies from Florida, both of whom seemed to be looking down their noses at everyone. Conversation turned to our flights and these ladies were horrified that we had actually flown Air Canada. Turned out one of them had flown Air Canada. Once. And would NEVER fly with them again.
Stephen: (puzzled) But why would you fly from Miami to Montreal to go to Paris in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been easier to fly out of JFK?
Florida Idiot: (as if speaking to a moron) Air Canada only flies out of Montreal. So I had to go to Montreal.
Stephen: But – (thinks better of it and changes line of questioning) So what was wrong with the Air Canada flight?
FI: They were LATE!  (and she sat back in her chair, waiting for us to be appropriately shocked and horrified. We weren’t.)
Stephen: Late? Like, a day late?
FI: An HOUR late! We were an hour late leaving Montreal.
Stephen and I exchanged glances, not quite catching the point here. So a plane was late. Is that a reason to boycott the entire fleet? Stephen decided to pursue questioning.
Stephen: Why were they late?
FI: There was a STORM!
Stephen: A – storm?
FI: Yes. There was a storm and the plane left an hour late and I’ll never fly with them again!
Stephen: (turns to me) Sweetie, shall we go get more drinks?

And then there was the retired lawyer from North Carolina and his “travelling companion” from Philadelphia with whom we had the misfortune to sit during dinner our second night. We never did tell him Stephen was a trucker because he spent most of his available talking time ranting about some truck driver who turned down their street by mistake and in trying to get turned around to leave mowed down the lawyer’s mailbox and tore up his lawn. And the neighbour who saw it happen didn’t even think to get a name off the truck. I say “available talking time” because there was a young lady roughly in her mid-thirties at the table who worked for the State Department in Wahington and she monopolized the conversation. In short, she wouldn’t shut up. And she was loud! Her mom was sitting silently at the end of the table, obviously used to being talked over. We didn’t sit with them again.

But the icing on the cake occurred late in the cruise after dinner one night. We had met a lovely group of people, all from England, and had taken to sitting together for all our meals and traveling together on most of the excursions. We got along well and there were a lot of jokes and much laughter – often very loud – at our table. This didn’t seem to go over well with the ladies sitting behind us who hailed from Atlanta, Georgia. They seemed to feel it necessary to add the “Georgia” part just in case we were all too provincial to know where Atlanta is. These two ladies were true Southern Belles, all growed up. They say “Bless your heart” to your face and slice you to ribbons behind your back. After one particularly laughter-filled dinner we stood to leave our table just as they did theirs. Our friend Janet was trying not to back into them as she pushed her chair in, and the one lady said to her, “My, y’all were having a lot of fun tonight. I have to tell you, I always thought you Brits were all dull and boring.” My jaw hit the table, and Janet was quite rightly offended, and quickly snapped back, “Well, I guess you haven’t met the right kind of Brits then if you think we’re dull!” I felt like cheering for Janet. I mean, seriously? At what point did that lady actually think it would be acceptable to make a comment like that?

So here’s the plan, America….from now on, please keep these people at home and let the rest of the world see that you have some wonderful and delightful people by letting them do the travelling. Please?

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37 Postcards. Or Six Degrees of Separation.

We romped off to Port Burwell Provincial Park with our trailer this weekend. We like Port Burwell. Good restaurants, cute shops, a lighthouse, and that submarine we STILL haven’t managed to tour! HMCS Ojibwa, in case you didn’t know.

On the Friday night we went to the Lighthouse Restaurant for dinner. There was a large table in the middle of the restaurant occupied by a group of people who were talking quite animatedly about something happening later that evening. A show of some sort, I thought.

At the table next to us, a lady with long dark hair and a bandage round one of her ankles was dining with a gentleman. One of the restaurant staff stopped by her table and, while we didn’t mean to eavesdrop, honestly, we learned that she was somehow involved in whatever was going down later, but as “a spectator tonight”. Don’t forget this lady; you’re going to meet her again.

I then noticed a poster beside the bar informing us that the Port Burwell Periscope Playhouse would be presenting a comedy entitled “37 Postcards” on a number of dates, one of which was that night. Aha! That explains it! Everyone in town is off to see the play tonight! Mystery thus solved, we finished our dinner, returned to the park and settled in for the night.

Fast forward to the next morning as we were heading over to the showers. Outside the bathhouse was an information board with Very Important Park Information – and a poster for 37 Postcards. As we were perusing the board, a gentleman wandered by and told us that he had seen the play the previous night and it was quite good. He told us it was in a brand new theater, very small, but nice, and that they had just received their occupancy permit at 4:01 on Thursday, less than four hours prior to their first, members only preview show! He said he picked up his tickets at someone’s house, but it was all good. So we decided, based on his resounding endorsement, to attend. We wrote down the two phone numbers, and when we returned to the trailer Stephen picked one number at random and called. Yes indeed, the lovely British voice informed him, there were tickets available, and yes indeed she would set two aside for him, and he could pick them up at – and she gave her home address.

So off we went to her house – a lovely B&B on a quiet street, where we were greeted by an excited dog of a small persuasion. The lovely English lady came out to greet us, and as she returned inside to retrieve our tickets, her husband came wandering from round the back to see what all the barking was about. Apparently they were expecting B&B guests to arrive, and he thought we might be them. Stephen introduced himself, and me, and the gentleman looked closely at him and announced, “I know you! We used to work together!” Which then spawned the “where did you work, where did you live, oh, THAT’S how I know you” routine. Come to find out they had both been members of a Montreal Kinsmen Club over 20 years ago! Nothing would do but we had to come up onto the porch, sit down in their comfy wicker seating and reminisce about the good old days. We were having a lovely afternoon visit, listening to them get all caught up, when suddenly the gentleman announced, “Oh,here’s Natalie now!” And up the walk came the dark haired lady we had shamelessly eavesdropped on the night before in the restaurant! Introductions were made all round and she animatedly entered into our conversation, delighted to hear we were planning to attend that evening’s performance, where she would be acting as front of the house manager. She was most entertained to hear how we had come to be picking up tickets, and much to our relief, was not at all offended by our accidental eavesdropping!

Long story short, we now have new (old) friends in Port Burwell, and we did go to the play, and it was good, and we both suggest that if you are in the Port Burwell area over the weekends of June 17-19 or 24-26, you should stop by the Port Burwell Periscope Playhouse and catch “37 Postcards” yourself. Just be sure to call ahead for tickets; they were sold out all last weekend. The theater is lovely, but small, seating only 50, which makes for an intimate, more personal performance. And who knows, you might make some new (old) friends too!

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Musings

I have voted in every single election since I turned 18 and became eligible to vote. I honestly believe that my vote does not matter in the least, because it has been my lifelong experience that it truly makes not one iota of difference to my daily life which political party is in power. Well, other than that my taxes constantly go up. However, I do have some scruples, and am at least a bit discerning about which party I vote for. I will never, ever, as long as I draw breath, vote for the NDP.

I find myself tonight preparing to cast a vote tomorrow that will actually impact my daily life as no other vote ever has. I never thought I would be in this position, but here I am, preparing to cast a “NO” vote for union certification in my place of employment. I despise unions and all they stand for. I swore I would never work in a unionized company. I am disgusted that I even have to cast this vote at all. But I do.

A group of dissatisfied employees banded together and approached a union to garner support. Of course the union was delighted to help them – after all, it’s what unions do, grow bigger and stronger. And wealthier. They held meetings in secret, gathering together like-minded souls who fed private information to the union organizers. Information like the time and location of our company safety meetings, where we were greeted at the gate by union members offering pamphlets. For some of us, this was the first we’d heard of the efforts. Things moved rapidly after that. I have heard tales of drivers being contacted by phone in an effort to persuade them to support the union. I have heard of union members showing up at drivers’ houses. All of this was done in secrecy, in an effort to bolster their numbers before those who would be opposed to union organization could mount any kind of opposition.

Finally there was a “public” meeting. An open house. An information session.

Right.

Those of us against were shouted over, yelled at, and told we had no idea what we were talking about. We came away with bizarre printed propaganda all about the “lies” our company would tell us. The lady – and I use the term very loosely – in charge of the meeting nattered on about “openness” and “transparency” when challenged about the secrecy, but had very little concrete information for us and seemed content to stand back and let the “sisters and brothers” just yell at one another in a singularly unproductive and very distressing session. The open hostility and antagonism emanating from the union supporters was horrifying and appalling. I have to work with these people.

And so, believing they have the support of the majority of drivers, the union has applied for a vote for certification. This will happen tomorrow. Much to the shock of the mechanics, they have been included in this vote without having been consulted. And they are very upset. So much for openness and transparency.

I do not trust unions. I believe they have too much power and they use that power to shelter the inept and incompetent. And the stupid. I have seen so many instances where inept, useless employees cannot be fired due to the union. I don’t want to be part of that. I believe striking is wrong. I believe picketing is wrong. I will never participate in either, regardless of the outcome tomorrow.

There are some drivers who have announced they will quit if the vote tomorrow results in a yes. I thought about it, but the bottom line is, I love my job and I have a great deal of respect for my employers. After spending the weekend in front of a campfire contemplating it all, I have decided to adopt a wait and see approach. I am praying for a no union outcome, but whatever happens I must follow my own conscience and do as I feel appropriate. Meanwhile, I will be voting NO tomorrow because I firmly believe that a union cannot possibly make the changes they claim they can, and I also believe that perks we currently enjoy will disappear following a yes outcome.

This is one vote I am taking very seriously.

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