I woke up early, around 4ish, and checked the email and Facebook. Got up a quick post on our arrival just to let folks know where we were and then took a long, leisurely, hot shower. Pam woke around 6 and we were packed, loaded and checked out by 7, sitting down to a passable breakfast in the airport motel where we had spent the night. After a quick refresher on the street route into town I drove down Airport Road to Dixon and down Scarlett Road to St. Clair. I must admit Toronto looked pretty nice at that hour. Traffic was light and the parks and trees green, spacious and inviting. We stopped at a Starbucks on College for a latte and quick read of the morning paper.

The news that interested us most was the Mafia hit on a petty gangster at a restaurant where my niece works. Fortunately she was not on shift when it happened, although she had friends who were. The police had the suspect in custody already, but Toronto had been rocked by a number of gang-related murders in recent weeks, including a shootout at the Eaton Center and this wasn’t good for the city’s image. We drove past the place on the way to Jane’s and it looked like your typical nice Italian restaurant with sidewalk seating and a friendly ambiance. Stuff like that can’t be good for business.

My ex-sister-in-law Jane lives in a tiny, narrow house tucked away just off College and Bathurst and both she and her oldest Sarah were up and happy to see us. Jane works for the city in art installations and her house is rich in her eclectic, colourful collection of pieces either bought from or given by her artist friends. Shortly we were joined by her steady companion Joe who lives not far away in an even tinier house, real estate being what it is in Toronto. We went to a local café for coffees and a natter and I ended up in a most interesting conversation with Joe about environmental concerns, a subject on which he was well qualified to speak.

Joe had to go and visit his 98 year old mother while we moseyed on down the street to the place where Sarah’s sister Tessa works where we had a brunch of Belgian waffles, strawberries, bananas, maple syrup and whipped cream for the ladies and a superb omelet for me. The food was excellent and Tessa was delighted to serve us and introduce her boss to us. The place was busy getting ready for the Italy/England Euro Cup game later that afternoon and expecting a big crowd.

I left the ladies to make their own way home and headed out across town to visit my brother. Wyn lives in a highrise overlooking the Don Valley with a nice view of the ravine and the city skyline in the distance. We sat and chatted on the balcony for a bit, getting caught up on family news, then we watched a boring and ineffective English team march in a desultory way towards their own, inevitable defeat at the hands of an only slightly more effective Italian team. Neither side stand a chance against the German juggernaut they will have to face next, but it was for me, at least, a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon with my brother.

I returned to my car only to find that I had violated some parking offense during my stay and had a ticket to show for my transgressions. I chuckled at the notion of stuffing it in the glove box for my son to find and pay for after I had left the country and did a brief mental calculation of how much I had paid in driving lessons, car repairs and insurance payments for him while he was growing up. Surely one parking ticket was at least some recompense, but I dismissed the thought as unworthy of my role as father. Besides, he is loaning me his Audi, and that is payment enough. She’s a great ride.

I picked Pam up at Jane’s and we had a speedy and relatively effortless drive back to London. The Audi performed admirably both in the city where it was agile and responsive and on the highway where it was comfortable and reliable. The stickshift was a real treat after the clunky automatic that I am forced to use in Malaysia, and the gear ratios were what you would expect on a German performance vehicle. I must confess I quite enjoyed shutting down some overripe, tarted-up truck trying to muscle his way past me on Bloor Street. I don’t do that kind of thing with Pam in the car, but it is hard to get my father’s racing background out of my bloodstream, and this Audi has got some moves. I think I like it!