Current News


With Steve’s 70th birthday coming up this week, we decided to put this long weekend to good use by booking a night at the Kimpton Seafire Resort. It was a great decision! The Kimpton Seafire opened in November of 2016 and is at present the tallest resort along the iconic Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. Locals protested bitterly at the time at the height and scale of the hotel, but now that the dust has settled one wonders what the fuss was all about.

The grounds have been tastefully designed around the pool with plenty of shade and a generous amount of beachfront. Unusual for Cayman, there is even a boardwalk for strolling along the beach to nearby Callico Jacks on the one side and Tikki Beach Bar on the other. The drive up to the lobby is lined with Banyan trees, which in years to come will undoubtedly be a feature, and the lobby itself is spacious and the staff most welcoming.

We were upgraded to a junior suite, which came with a well equipped kitchenette and a spacious balcony overlooking one of the world’s great beaches. The bed was soft and the room nicely appointed. The bathroom came with a very deep two person tub, which we put to good use, especially since it has been twelve years since we had a decent bathtub in our rental condos. Soon after we arrived, the staff delivered a lovely birthday wish for Steve.

There was a welcome wine hour from four to six and a coffee bar from six to ten in the morning.  We indulged in a lovely dinner while we watched the sunset. By seven in the morning we were camped out on the beach. The towel service includes lounge chairs and umbrellas and the non motorized watercraft, including small sailing catamarans, were included in the room. Lunch at the shoreside Cocoloba Bar was reasonably priced for Cayman and very tasty. Checkout time is noon, but we lingered for a few hours enjoying the sea and no one seemed to mind.

We have decided that we don’t do this kind of thing enough. The resident rate for hotels in the off-season is one-half to one-quarter what it would be if we were coming in as tourists, and we can easily bring our own snacks and drinks to lower the cost even more. Staying locally saves us a bundle on airfare going anywhere else, and the service and food here is always first-rate. What’s not to like? Staycation is the new travel destination, especially if you already live in the Cayman Islands!

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.

 

 

When I was 15 my parents moved across the north end of Toronto from the safe little enclave that was Parkway West to the wilds of Weston just east of the airport. I lost all my childhood friends in that one move, as I was too young to drive. Fortunately for me I quickly fell into a clutch of new friends all centered around music and literature. The lit crowd – Gail Burgess, Mike Fuhrman, and Pat Johnstone – helped me to develop a far deeper understanding of what would eventually become my career. Instead of passing notes, Gail, Pat and I would pass around the latest drafts of the poems we were writing and talk about Dostoevsky. Mike would later become a writer for Canadian Press.

The music crowd kept me sane through those turbulent teen years and gave me a sense of identity as I learned to play guitar, write music, and sing for our band, the Echoes of Tyme. Bob Macko, our drummer, would pile our pitifully small clutch of guitars, drums and amplifiers into his tiny little Mini, and off we’d go with Bob Trimble our lead guitarist, Mike Fuhrman on keyboards, Mike Dick on rhythm and John Holt playing bass and harmonizing on the vocals. We did rhythm and blues and loved Bob Dylan and the early Stones songs like King Bee, and You’d Better Move On. We played mostly in Legion Halls where nobody much cared if we drank or smoked pot.

None of us were any good but we did have a lot of fun and a fairly steady group of girlfriends that followed us around. Yorkville was alive with music in those days from The Mandela and Ronnie Hawkins, Gordie Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell and we hung around there picking up riffs and just soaking in the joy of that vibrant music scene. I hated being shipped off to Ottawa in Grade 13 and spent most of my weekends hitching back to Toronto to hang out with my friends. I totally bombed that year as a consequence and it was four years before I got back to university. During those years I gradually lost track of all those friends except John, who shared a flat with me on upper Christie for a while.

John was working at Manulife at the time, where he met and later married Bonnie Oxtoby. He was never much interested in coming with me on my many travels during those years, but he was always good enough to find room for me whenever I got back to Toronto and his friendship grew increasingly important to me. Once I got to Guelph I encouraged him to return to university himself and get a teaching degree; he encouraged me to consider teaching Industrial Arts instead of English as it would be a lot more fun. He was right, it was!

After I landed a job teaching shop at Scott St. Public School in St. Thomas, I recommended him to a friend who hired him for the shop position at Central in St. Thomas, a position he held until he retired. He was the best man at my wedding, and the only friend I insisted on inviting to my daughter’s wedding. I have known him now for 55 years, longer than anyone living except my brother and sister.

A few days ago my friend John Holt turned 70 and celebrated the event with his wife, Bonnie, their two sons and their wives, Bill and Golli (in the foreground) Mike and Kate, My 70th is not far behind. For all that our paths in life have gone in different directions; John has remained one of the cornerstones in my life. He connects me to my past, and reminds me of the value of excellence and the richness of the age in which were fortunate to have lived. He is a kind and good-hearted man, an expert craftsman and an accomplished cook. He is also a faithful father, husband, and friend. If you are reading this John, I wish you all the best on this milestone. Thank you for your friendship. I treasure the privilege of having known you so long.

Cayman Brac is one of the three islands that make up Cayman Islands. Despite being a mere 30 minutes away, we had never been there until this week. It was the cheapest getaway option that we could find for the three day March Break that we get at CIS, and Pam found us a very reasonably priced cottage right on the water with enough space for us and Tom and Jana Hartley who shared the expense and the cooking.

We were met at the airport by Hecton, who waited while we picked up a rental vehicle and escorted us the three miles down the road to the rental and walked us through the appliances, fans, and TVs. Tom was still in Dallas seeing his ailing Dad, so we got the place to ourselves for one day, which allowed us to snag the master bedroom with the ensuite bathroom and the patio door opening on the ocean.

Once we had unpacked, we went for a little reconnoiter of the area, picking up a few groceries and some charcoal at a very well equipped local market and checking out the local public beach for further exploration. We then took an extensive tour of the 12 mile long island, stopping frequently for pictures. We had a late lunch/early supper at the Star Island Café and retired to our idyllic little deck overlooking the ocean in time for drinks at sunset and lingered until Orion came clearly into view.

I would like to say we were up early enough to catch the sunrise, but we both slept in until 7 and with no real idea of what to do for breakfast, decided to go out and explore the local options. We ended up at Pat’s Kitchen, decorated in bright Jamaican yellow, where Patrick offered us his Jamaican specialty of Akee and fried codfish. We opted for the scrambled eggs and Irish (fried) potatoes instead before we headed back to the airport to pick up Tom and Jana. We met a German couple waiting for their flight out who had come all the way to the Cayman Brac for the diving, it is that world renowned.

After Tom and Jana got unpacked and settled in we decided it would be a good afternoon to explore the east end of the island and the brac (Gaelic for bluff) for which it is named. Along the way we discovered what looked to be the retirement home of some artistic former hippie from the sixties with his homage to the work of Led Zeppelin and the lingering effects of LSD.

After a short stop for pictures we continued on our way to the brac and were not disappointed as the cliff overlooking the ocean on that end of the island rose 150 feet above a brilliant sapphire blue sea. We looked in vain for the brown boobies that were said to use the cliff for nesting, but the view was most spectacular. Less impressive was Peter’s Cave on the north shore, used by locals for a hurricane shelter and decidedly mundane after the caves of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.

Another short drive took us back to the cottage in time for an early supper. We had brought some decent steaks with us in a cooler from home and barbequed them outside and ate them along with an excellent avocado salad and some baked potatoes while we listen to the surf pound the shore outside the window. A short drive along the beach road brought us to the western end of the island from which we could see Little Cayman, just five miles away and afforded us a lingering sunset over the Caribbean.

Once again we lingered too long in a far too comfortable bed and missed the sunrise, but during morning coffees we were treated to a view of a dozen brown boobys and a few frigate birds out skimming the waves for their breakfast. We had an excellent breakfast ourselves of leftover steak and potatoes and scrambled eggs. We followed that up with a splash in the surf at a local beach and after a quick clean up headed back out to explore the south shore of the island. We drove as far as the road allowed and then hiked along the shale beach to where the brac falls into the sea. There were climbers on the cliff above us and massive breakers in the sea beside us. Pam got a little too close to a blow hole, and ended up drenched to the skin as a huge wave exploded through the hole.

We had already determined to try the local jerk chicken and Barry, who has a little stand by the airport, was happy to oblige. The portions were enormous and very tasty and the chicken and some rice and beans got us comfortably into the evening. Tom and Jana were game to learn how to play Rook, and we had a most pleasant evening together laughing our way through that. Some late evening stargazing over drinks was a perfect way to end that day.

On our last morning I was up shortly after 5 with my binoculars and StarChart App looking at the stars of Scorpio and the three planets visible in the morning sky: Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter. Saturn’s rings were clearly visible, as were two of Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede, the largest, and Callisto, the second largest. I have seen the two inner so-called Galilean moons Io and Europa in a very clear sky, but they were not visible on this occasion. Pam and I had a very pleasant morning nursing our coffees and getting caught up on some reading.

After another leisurely breakfast we packed up and tidied up the rental place, leaving in time for Tom and I to play three games of pool back at Pat’s kitchen while the ladies chatted. I had already filled the car with gas, so there was nothing to sort out with CB’s rentals and while the plane coming from Miami was late, the waiting room was comfortable and the flight was short. It was a joy not to have to go through customs or immigration as we had not technically left the country, and we had left our own car in long term parking, so we were out of the airport in George Town and back in our own little condo in no time flat.

It was a wonderful little holiday: the maximum of rest with the minimum of fuss. As Tom and Jana split the cost of the rental, we ended up paying $60 Cayman a night for a fabulous spot right on the ocean with all the amenities. Airfare and hassle to one of the “sister islands” is cheap and easy. I just don’t understand why we haven’t done this more often!

My father taught me how to play chess when I was eight years old. He taught me how to play cribbage as well, but that is another story. Those hours spent with the two of us in a friendly competition over a game we both enjoyed are treasured memories of a loving father who always had time to spend with me. I loved chess as a kid and by the time I was 11 was able to beat my Dad pretty regularly. But in the days before the internet, finding other people to play was a problem.

Shortly after I started teaching I began a chess club at my school which grew into a county-wide tournament by the time we were amalgamated into the larger Thames Valley District. We then became part of the London Regional Chess Tournament, which at its peak attracted over 1,000 students to a venue at the Western Fair for an all-day competition. By then I was teaching at Locke’s Public School and some of my students – Cassidy Proctor, Andy and Peter Buczkowski, for example – were stiff competition at the Regional Tournament.

I started another chess club in Malaysia when I taught there, but as the students were only at the school for a year, it was hard to get any consistency and tournaments in that country were non-existent. For all their problems, tournaments provide motivation and develop student involvement. It is hard to keep a chess club going without them.

Coming to Cayman I was determined to do better, but I ran into the usual wall of “if it don’t bounce, it don’t count” mentality that often drives programs at elementary and secondary schools. It is hard to get attention for non-sport activities such as drama, art and debate at this level. I asked admin for money to buy chess boards, but was told it had been tried before and the answer was no. I bought them anyway – 12 tournament quality boards shipped in at my own expense – and started with the help of Gini Gaylon who saw chess as a way to motivate some of her special needs children.

This year I was able to bring on board another two colleagues, Shaun Schaller and Krista Finch, who each started their own chess groups at the school. With the help of the Cayman Islands Chess Club and some other local teachers, I started planning for the first Interschool Chess Tournament. I was greatly encouraged and helped by Glenda McTaggart of Dart/Minds Inspired, who sponsored the medals and awards. Last week 120 students from eight island schools came to CIS to play in age categories from 7 to 17 in three divisions, resulting in three gold medal winners awarded by a representative from the Ministry of Education.

There was a wonderful air of excitement and joy as the tournament began which gave way to an intense concentration as students worked their way through the qualifying round to the medal round. Although there were a few glitches, for the most part the tournament ran very well, far better than many expected. I got a lot of positive feedback from parents and colleagues.

The tournament would not have been possible without the cheerful and supremely competent group of seniors this year at CIS who helped with registration and scoring. There may only have been 16 of them handling 120 kids, but they were well up to the task and problem solved their way through to the end.

Chess is a wonderful social leveler that cheerfully ignores language, size, physical strength, gender, ethnicity, and economic status. It requires no team spirit or school support. The high school champion, Edmund P. was the only representative of his school to attend, but that didn’t slow him down. Ryan H. of our school, who won the middle school gold, was virtually unknown at the school and now he is seen as a winner.

Hopefully this tournament will now become an annual event that will help to provide some balance to the sports-related activities that excludes so many students. If chess can help to give these often marginalized kids some badly needed recognition, it is well worth all the effort.

Love’s not found

in languid looks

and impassioned sighs,

trite phrases muttered

as soon forgot as uttered;

or gifts that beggar cost

that in age we will discover lost.

 

Love’s not found in roses faded

or poses jaded by petty

jealousies. Such love only sees

what it most craves, and

not the other’s careworn ways,

or anxious fears and voiceless sighs

in weary and in fretful days.

 

And this I say, though

words come hard when

life’s dull strength has

torn and worn away the sense

and blush of love’s first kiss.

 

Yet I still know this:

My wife’s love’s a fire.

Though hedged with care of those

not there and dearly missed

it lingers

ever kissed in her warm heart.

 

No flight of startled doves, no.

Her love’s a constant light

in my stilled soul.

A friend enfolded ever.

 

On this I’ve built a life

unmoved by ‘if’ and ‘should’

but founded still by what

is good and of eternal worth.

 

Her love is measured

in our enduring tale,

in purpose bound and future claimed,

in restoration gained,

and forgiveness found.

 

To her I owe all this.

With her I find my peace

We met our friend Anjee when she asked to join our Community Group a couple of years ago. She was and is a lovely young Canadian researcher who was deeply touched by the plight of the children brought to this island for heart surgery. Anjee immediately sought to get involved in the Children’s Heart Project when it was presented at our church here in Cayman. Going well beyond how many responded, Anjee felt that God would have her purchase a home so that she could host the children who come here for surgery to correct congenital heart defects. For several years now she has hosted children and their mom’s from Bolivia and Mongolia. Through this ministry, she caught the eye of Grant, a fine young man from South Africa who was drawn not only to her compassionate heart but also her beauty.

Grant volunteered to bring dinner for a Bolivian group at Anjee’s one evening but missed out on meeting Anjee as she was a bit late getting in. When Anjee hosted a farewell dinner for the children once they were well enough to return home, Grant happily attended. They continued their relationship when Grant returned to his native South Africa for an extended stay and began formally dating on Grant’s return to Cayman. We were very blessed when they both joined our Community Group shortly after they began going out.

As a group we prayed with them through some serious bumps in the road related to their work situations. Both went through periods of unemployment which jeopardized their ability to stay on island. But God was faithful and got them through that rough patch to once again being fully employed. With that behind them, they set their sights on marriage and this past weekend we were overjoyed to be able to attend their wedding and see them commit their lives to each other and their marriage to God.

The setting for the ceremony was the beach at Rum Point. The weather was beautiful and the scenery was breathtaking. Every aspect of the ceremony demonstrated their faith and trust in God. The entire day went off flawlessly with three sweet little flower girls and even Rosco the ring-bearer (their three-legged dog) completely on task. An amazing steak dinner at sunset and a fun evening of dancing rounded out a a day.

We have grown to love both Grant and Anjee and have been blessed to see how God has brought them together from opposite ends of the earth to meet on tiny island in the Caribbean. We have been humbled by their faith and commitment and are so happy for them. As all the members of our community group gathered around them for pictures it was like the blessings of family. We know that given their hearts and talents God has great things in store for them and we are excited to walk with them in the coming months and years to see how it all unfolds.

Next Page »