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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.

Educating Rita was written in 1980 by William Russell (Shirley Valentine, Blood Brothers) on a commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company. It has only two principal characters, Frank, an aging alcoholic English poet and professor, and Rita, a lower class hairdresser with an ambition to “know everything.” It was made into a movie with Michael Caine as Frank and Julie Walters as Rita in 1983 and the play has been in production someplace in the world since. I had never seen or read it, and was delighted when Pam and I went to see it last night at the Prospect Theatre.

Frank was played by Anne Frank colleague, Adam Roberts, a veteran of the Cayman Drama Society, and Rita by Soraya Moghadass, another veteran of local theatre, who absolutely nailed the Liverpudilian accent required for her role. She also brought energy, a refreshing sarcastic edginess and a rare degree of touching pathos to her well-rounded character. I always enjoy the experience of being out with my wife to live theatre, and this time I had the rare pleasure of bumping into Anne Frank colleagues Mike (Mr. Kraler), Laura (Mrs. Van Daan) and Sandra (Miep) and reminiscing.  I was not ready for the text of the play itself.

Russell, who in a chequered past had been both a hairdresser and a teacher, explores what happens when students come to grips with the intricacies of literary analysis. The highly structured language and demanding form is one thing. The necessary dependence on a whole history of literary allusion is another. The close attention to the details of the text in an age when the overwhelming majority of people read nothing longer than social media articles is a huge obstacle, as is the virtual abandonment of the formal instruction in grammar, syntax, punctuation, and even simple capitalization so necessary for good writing.

But even after students have plowed their way through all that – with some pretty insistent nagging and cajoling on my part – one huge obstacle remains, and it was the one most poignantly examined in this play. What happens to the student’s own voice in seeking to master analytical writing? Do the requirements of IB Literature mean that students lose their own unique individuality?

This is the dilemma I face every single day in my role as teacher, mentor, and writing tutor. Literary analysis requires that one seeks to know what the writer’s point of view is. One must suspend one’s own moral and personal judgement and enter into the way the writer sees the world and comment on how he or she presents that. Those engaged in critical analysis must be dispassionate and, yes analytical, observing connections between characters and even connecting with them, but still able to maturely critique those connections and behaviours.

Further, the language of analysis must be academic and detached, but not stilted or artificial. It must be sparse and concise, yet remain engaging and erudite. Is it any wonder many 17 and 18 year olds find themselves losing their own voice in the process? Yet this is precisely what they must not let happen, and what I as their teacher must not allow to happen. This new way of thinking and writing about the world has to become part of who they are; it has to be integrated into their own personalities so that it becomes an authentic expression of their understanding of the world. To reduce all those unique and wonderful human beings to mere parroting sycophants merely to pass a set of exams would be a travesty of this profession.

Hence my personal and pensive delight with this wonderful little gem of a play that so wisely and lovingly explores this very personal dilemma and allowed me to reflect on my own professional journey. Thank you to all those connected with this production – Adam, Soraya, Liam, and Laura especially – for a most revealing evening.

We didn’t get home at Christmas and neither did anyone come to visit us over the break. So when we heard that Liz and Greg and Greg’s sister and family were coming by Cayman on a Disney Cruise, we were wildly excited. However, as the day approached, we grew increasingly concerned.

The weather in Cayman was unusually rainy over the break, and there was even a tropical storm, a northwester from Mexico, that slammed into Seven Mile Beach and did a fair bit of damage the week before they arrived. Trusting that the sun would shine on our efforts, we both booked a ‘personal day’ off at work and booked a room at the Westin for a very reasonable resident rate and hoped for the best.

Given that check-in time wasn’t until 4pm, we booked the night before their visit as well so we could have the room for when they arrived. We had a most pleasant evening to ourselves pretending that we could actually afford this kind of life and woke up bright and early to a most pleasant and sunny day.

I went off to work in the morning to help my supply teacher through the intricacies of IB English, but I needn’t have worried. Our friend Tom Hartley came in for me and he had things well in hand before I left. Pam stopped by our condo to pick up a few snacks for the kids and we met up at Margaritaville to wait.

There is a wonderful cruise tracker at that we use when people are coming in by boat, so we knew exactly where the ship was and where and when it would dock. I had also brought a pair of binoculars so we could see them coming in on the first tender from the ship.

Finally they walked out through the gate to much hugging and squealing with delight. There were nine of us all together, as Stacy’s husband Mike had taken their eldest son Gavin off to Sting Ray City, so we crammed into our two cars and scooted off to the Westin to get out of the crowds. Our room was on the ground floor, just beside the pool but at the corner, so we were out of view of the curious. We had the fridge well stocked with drinks and snacks, and the glorious Seven Mile Beach was just a few feet away from the back door of our room.

The kids frolicked in the ocean and splashed in the pool the entire day while we adults chatted away. I got a nice visit in with both Holly and Greg, and plenty of Grandkid time. Holly, Stacy and her daughter Georgia left early to get back to the ship with tea with a Disney princess, so we had a great visit with Liz, Greg and the kids by ourselves.

The day was just perfect, and when we took them back to the port we were all most happy and most tired. As a bonus we got a second night at the Westin to ourselves and enjoyed a quiet evening out under the stars on our secluded little patio reflecting on God’s goodness to us. What a wonderful day we had!

We know that our family is not perfect, any more than we are. Our kids have their struggles, as we have, and it is easy in this life to get so caught up in our troubles that we can’t see the blessings. But there are days, and this was one of them, when all the world seems happy and bright and all our troubles are but clouds on a sunny day.

Jan. 8, 2019

It has been exciting for us to be back on this side of the world after so many years in Asia. The most fun of all the activities over the last several years has been to get together with our family at Christmas. For two of the three Christmases we have been in the Caribbean our children have come down here to see us either for the holiday or shortly after.  For one of those years we went up north to see them. There have been other trips as well, like the most recent one to Ontario in October, or Pam’s trips to Orlando, Phoenix and Calgary.

However, this Christmas we neither went north nor did we entertain family. We didn’t travel either, both of us being a little too weary from work to do the necessary planning to get away. Instead we had a quiet Christmas ‘on island’ and it has been very pleasant and relaxing.  After all, if you lived in Canada you would think that three weeks in the Caribbean would be a very nice holiday! We have a little pool on the condo property here, and I made good use of that, finally getting to loosen up some of the bodily tension from this long first semester. We spent a couple of mornings on Seven Mile Beach, and a very pleasant day up at Barker’s Beach on the north shore just watching the kite surfers and horseback riders and reading under the trees. We went out for a few nice meals at Thai Orchard and Tukka.

We had a lovely quiet meal for Christmas. We met with our church in Dart Park by the sea for a Christmas Eve service and met up with friends Jake and Ema afterwards at Sunset House for drinks and curry fries.  We did a little garage sale-ing one day and drove around to see the Christmas lights at Christmas. We took an evening sail to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks with our friends Tom and Jana and we went dancing at Margaritaville and Peppers. We also watched a lot of movies on Netflix, including E.T., The Sound of Music, and Home Alone. We read and rested and went for a walk downtown. We got both cars safetied for another year and replaced the ceiling fan in the bedroom that just up and died. I got all of the backlog of essays marked so I can start the new semester fresh. Most importantly both of us spent a lot of time on our weblogbook Home Thoughts From Abroad which we publish through every couple of years. The one just finished will be the eighth book in the series of adventures we have been on since we left Canada.

It is most unusual for us to take the time just to relax. Usually we use every free moment of vacation time to travel or visit with our family to the point of physical exhaustion. To take the time just to unwind and have some fun and pretend that we are a retired older couple is odd for us, and kind of nice. They say that being bored is a fundamental component of creativity and productivity: that these periods of doing nothing allow you to reflect on the journey you are on and plan for the next steps to come. If so, we well are well prepared for the year and the challenges to come. Happy New Year to all!

Jan 5, 2019.


There are some disadvantages for those who live on a tiny island, but many advantages as well which, fortunately out-weigh the disadvantages.  Within a very short drive of our place we have wonderful, expansive views of the ocean in all directions for as far as the eye can see. Whether it is the early morning glow of a sunrise, a spectacular sunset or the formation and advance of wild storm clouds bringing with them pounding surf and roaring winds; it is just mesmerizing.

In our travels we have a few times stumbled across a rising full moon but we have not yet intentionally gone to the East End to watch the full moon rise over the ocean. Since we are on island and off work, we decided to finally do so. We went to Tukka which is an Aussie owned restaurant with an outdoor dining area on the beach, serving Australian cuisine with a Caribbean fusion.  Although you can try Kangaroo or Green Iguana if you wish, the fresh local catch and seafood of the day are amazing.

We arrived early in time to sip a little wine while we watched the huge frigate birds gather to be fed and swoop down around us to snatch fish from the hands of brave tourists. For a special treat, four pelicans, which are not often seen on the island, came by to spend a little time entertaining us. Two sharks and a number of huge tarpon were there to challenge the frigates and pelicans for any fish parts that hit the water.

The restaurant is not spectacular looking but the staff were friendly, the atmosphere casual and slow paced and the weather absolutely beautiful. As we watched the moon rise out of the ocean we were delighted by the fresh catch of the day; red snapper with shrimp. It was a completely lovely evening and one that we will definitely do again sometime soon.

We kicked off the Christmas music season at the Westin Ballroom, taking in an evening with the Cayman National Choir and Orchestra as they performed a medley of hits at their “Epic Journeys” concert. A packed-out crowd was transported from the Caribbean to Middle Earth via Ancient Greece and space and Back to the Future.

With many of our friends and colleagues involved in music on the island, we took advantage of as many of the concerts and events as we could possibly fit into our schedule. We reflected back on our first Christmas here in 2015 when we attended the lighting of the tree at Camana Bay and several other musical events that ranged from embarrassing to pretty decent. This year every musical presentation was excellent with the National Choir and Orchestra almost doubling in size and the scope of the talent. The addition of Jonathan Taylor as full-time Director has fostered an island-wide coordination of development of programs and growth of talent and caliber of performances. We finished the season at one of our favourite annual events at Elmslie United Church.

The Elmslie Church, is named after Rev. James Elmslie who came to Cayman in 1846 to establish the Presbyterian church here, is built on the site that was the former Anglican Church and was destroyed by a hurricane that struck in 1838. The present building was constructed during the 1920’s by Capt. Rayal Bodden, and has a noteworthy feature. Capt. Rayal being a naval architect designed the roof in the form of a ship’s hull turned upside down, which can be seen in its strength and beauty. The acoustics and atmosphere is the building provide a fabulous venue in which to celebrate the birth of Christ in music.

Cayman Islands has a boat culture. We see boats go up and down the canal outside our condo everyday. We take the occasional cruise to Rum Point or at sunset ourselves. But we are nowhere near as connected as are most people on the island who have boats or access to boats.

Back in Canada, thirty grand would get you a pretty nice little boat to run around in. That same boat down here would cost three times that amount, and that wouldn’t include maintenance. We don’t have that kind of money. Nevertheless, we do like to see the boats go by, especially at Christmas, when many of them dress up their boats with lights the way that we do back home with our houses.

This has become such a tradition that there is now a Parade of Lights at the nearby Camana Bay, that is regularly attended by hundreds of people. There is music and street food, and a local television now broadcast the event island wide with prizes for the best in the small boat and large boat categories.

We have gone in the past, but this year decided to make it a group event with island friends who like us brought chairs and snacks and drinks. Pam and I got there early to stake out a good place to view, and then settled in for a good old natter while we waited for the parade to start.

There were fourteen boats this year, some of them with over three thousand lights. Each boat adopts a particular theme to promote. Of particular note were “Baby Shark” with its movable jaw and “Water Angel” with its curtain of lights hanging from the fishing rigging. After the parade and the prizes, we were treated to a fireworks show.

Christmas is still not Christmas without the snow, but there are compensations in this part of the world. Gathering with friends for a pleasant evening by the water with the cool Christmas breezes blowing is one of them.

Our church meets in the Harquail Theatre, not far from where we live. We tried going to larger churches – and there are plenty of those on island – but for us it is the sense of community that binds us to Christ, and that is often missing in larger congregations. Because it is a theatre, we often get to see coming productions in the process of building their sets on stage. We have watched with fascination as the set for Moon on a Rainbow Shawl was taking place. It was a marvel of construction that had room for four families that share a “yard” with another half dozen people walking by on the “road” behind their “houses.”

The play, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, was written in 1957 by Errol John, a Trinidadian, who won a contest to write a culturally relevant play set after the last war. It was first staged in London, England to rave reviews and its storied past includes cast members James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, and Maya Angelou. The play is set in a dirt-poor Trinidadian yard and we get to know the people living in it as if we were their neighbours.

The mother, Sophia, is at the heart of the drama. She is the Caribbean matriarch no one dares to cross with her biting sarcasm and gaze that would freeze hell. She is also exhausted, hard-working and vulnerable with an equally exhausted husband, Charlie, and a young baby to tend. Their only hope is their teenage daughter, Esther, who has just secured a scholarship to high school. Drunk from partying, one night Charlie steals some money from a local restaurant as a prank.

Sharing the yard is Rosa, who works at the restaurant and has seen the theft. She is carrying the child of her lover Ephraim, who also lives in the yard, but she has not told him of her pregnancy. Ephraim, for his part, is planning to leave the island to find a better life in England. Mavis, the town’s prostitute, entertains a revolving door of men in an effort to make ends meet. In short, they are all trapped in the same yard by their poverty.

The cast included seasoned Caribbean professionals, including the set designer and director, Henry Muttoo, MBE, the artistic director of Cayman National Cultural Foundation, but also a number of students from the local John Gray High School who were more than able to hold their own. It was a brilliant production, well-acted and staged, with a tone and resonance that was tender and as far as we could tell, authentic in its depiction of Caribbean life. We get so few chances to see what our fellow residents of this island face on a daily basis as we spend most of our time with expats doing expat things. It was something of reality check to see what resilience, grit, and perseverance are needed to face what for some are lives of overwhelming despair in trying just to survive.

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