This has been a banner year for getting home to Canada. We had an awesome summer holiday in BC at the Epps’ cabin on Lake Moyie and for the first time in many years had the whole family together. Then we had a further trip to Ontario in October, finally getting to see the autumn colours after all these years. Now we have just finished a third trip home in the year, once again to Ontario that also included a day in Niagara Falls with Jon and Nic’s crew. This is what we dreamed of when we were in South-East Asia and the strongest pull to get back to this side of the world. We got to fly home only once a year from Malaysia and it was never enough. To be able to get home three times in one year is amazing.

We flew into Toronto in plenty of time for a leisurely drive to London into a gorgeous Canadian sunset. We actually arrived before Syl got home from music practice and had a very comfortable night’s sleep despite the unseasonably cold weather. We got up early enough to catch the first service at West London Alliance, and although we did not see all of our friends, there were many to greet and chat with. The sanctuary was packed and as it was Palm Sunday we got to see all the kids with their palm branches singing at the front. It was good to see that WLA is still a thriving church. McGuinness Landing having closed we had a disappointing lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant, which is no longer run by Vietnamese and now serves mediocre Chinese food.

While Pam finished her lunch, I slipped next door to the Central Cannabis store to see what was going on. It looked more like a jewelry store than a joint shop, with nifty little boxes of pot and inflated prices to match. They wanted $30 for 3.5 grams of grass, which back in the day would be a nickel bag and go for $5. From that you might get two to three joints, depending on how big you rolled them. For $30 I can get two fairly decent bottles of Ontario wine and a very pleasant evening with friends. I can’t think this is going to work at that price, but I have been wrong before. The place had all the wrong vibes as well, very artificial and unfriendly.

We finished the day with a trip to the apartment, the reason for our visit home in April. After four years our tenant is moving on, buying a home with her sister and no longer needing the place. We have new tenants Jon and Amy, moving in and we wanted a chance to fix up a few things while no one was there. Deb had the carpets cleaned and Jon and Amy had painted the walls, so at least two of the jobs were already done, but there still was much left. We did a quick assessment and drew up a shopping list of things that we had to buy and headed back to Hyde Park for the evening.

Randy and Syl wanted to take us on in Rook, and as Pam and I were a little rusty and incompetent we lost the first round and retired early to the Granny suite as we had a full day of visiting to get in. Early next morning we drove down to Woodstock to meet with Beth and Stephen. It was Stephen’s 70th and they were good enough to drive up from Glen Morris and meet us halfway. Though we have known this couple less than ten years, they have become fast friends and we have much in common. In the evening we met up with Mochi and her new husband Roberto. They now have two very cute children and Mochi is over the moon happy with her new life in Canada. It is too bad that things didn’t work out with a former colleague, but Mochi has the resilience of a survivor and has made the most of what could have been a very difficult situation in Canada.

Tuesday we got down to work on the apartment in earnest, tearing out the old microwave and cleaning out the toilets. The one exhaust fan in the ensuite bath simply needed oiling, but the one in the main bath had to be replaced and no new fixture would fit the space. I ended up buying and butchering something similar and retrofitting the new fan into the old housing. This required some clever repair work in the ceiling drywall, something that I used to be pretty good at. In the evening I was able to slip in a visit with John and Bonnie while Pam went out with Syl.

On Wednesday Randy gave me a hand to install the new microwave, as the unit was too heavy for me to maneuver by myself. We also installed a new light fixture in the main bath, new shower head and curtain rod and re-caulked the kitchen sink. We replaced every light bulb and bought a new Dyson Animal to vacuum the carpets. We bought new tile for the storage room and cleaned out the aircon for the summer. We even replaced the tumbler on the apartment door. When we were all done we took a set of keys around to Rob at SEND and got in a little visit with Matt.

In the evening we were invited around to Vera and Danny’s for dinner only to find that they had invited Al and Shelley as well. What a lovely evening that was, reminiscing about our shared experiences. I played some table tennis with Al and Danny whipping them both soundly despite not having played for perhaps fifteen years. We hated to leave and I even skipped out during the evening to put another coat of drywall on the ceiling so we could stay later.

On Thursday evening we took Randy and Sylvia out for dinner and then came back for another two rounds of Rook. We had to say our goodbyes that night so we could make an early start in the morning to Niagara Falls. We were looking forward to a nice spring drive but the day was just as miserable as possible, with a cold driving rain that would not let up. However, the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Great Wolf Lodge where we were immediately given access to our room so we could unwind and get a coffee.

The kids were very excited when they showed up. This place is one of their favourites, and it didn’t take long for us to see why. The indoor waterpark was vast, much larger than the one in Lorrach, with multiple slides for individuals, pairs and groups. The kids were great, most helpful and thoughtful, and we had some truly epic rides for three or four hours before we had finally had enough and were ready for something to eat.

I took Ben with me in the rental car and he navigated us flawlessly to the Swiss Chalet on Lundy’s Lane. Supper was fun and filling and a great way to end a wonderful day with them. We drove back along the QEW to 427 and dropped the car off at the airport with no trouble and no extra charge for being a bit late. The great treat was being able to take the elevator from Hertz, and not a shuttle, to our hotel, the Sheraton Gateway, immediately across from Terminal 3 and the Westjet counter. After dumping our luggage in the room we had a couple of drinks in the lounge while we watched the Leafs trounce the Bruins and had a great sleep before taking the elevator back down to the terminal for our flight home. Honestly! Why haven’t we thought of this before! It saved us hours of hassle.

The flight home was equally pleasant and we both arrived back in Cayman feeling like we had accomplished much in just one short week. We are already discussing our plans for the summer, and it will be so nice not to have to face that mountain of work we plowed through on this trip. It was also great to see family and friends and renew the ties that bind us to home.