Hey Canada Eh?

Today saw us check out of our hotel in Manhattan and take a taxi out to the airport. We were headed for Ontario to catch up with my cousins Tania & Kevin, so the lion's share of the day was spent travelling.

Early in the proceedings we suffered another loss. Despite checking the taxi we managed to arrive at Newark airport one bag short. Luckily it was just a bag containing a few items to keep the children occupied en route, but the situation was frustrating nonetheless. Lottie, bless her was quite sanguine about the whole thing and diffused the situation by saying 'well maybe if the driver has children he can give the bag to them'. Cute if a little misguided huh?

The short flight to Toronto passed uneventfully; just the way I like my flights.

On arrival at the car hire place we had a moment of panic when I compared the size of our 'compact' hire car with our 'executive' pile of personal effects. I'm not quite sure how we managed to shoehorn all that stuff into the car. It was like repacking a life raft. Had the airbags have gone off, we would have surely been suffocated.

It only took about an hour to drive across to Kitchener where we sat on the deck soaking up the sunshine.

Shortly after arrival Kevin and I set off to buy beer. The sale of alcohol is regulated by the government here, so we had to go down to the LCBO, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. They have a control board - how cool is that?

Steaks and beer followed, a real Canadian welcome. We consumed a lot of both. How's my typing? Call 1-800-QWERTY.

A quick word about technology. Iím connected to the Internet via my iPAQ device right now. Best of all I'm hooked up to an open wireless connection somewhere in the neighbourhood. Wireless rocks.

Unless the locals lynch me for purloining their bandwidth, more tomorrow.

May 10, 2005.

Come On In The Water's Fine

We've been getting lots of mail recently encouraging me to keep this site updated daily. I can only imagine that television back home has hit a particularly bad patch. Regardless, the pressure to find something interesting to write about is growing daily. If it gets to about midday local time and the day is panning out as scheduled I begin to get a little twitchy.

Therefore I was delighted when at only 09:30 this morning Ben fell into a pond. In a show of shameful parenting we had taken the children to feed some Canadian geese and their goslings. Despite our taking along a smorgasbord of what could only be described as goose and gander sweetmeats, the geese just weren't interested and swam away from us almost as soon as we had arrived.

Eager as a Foie Gras farmer Ben pursued the geese just an inch too far. The bank collapsed and he sploshed full length into the water.

It was a bittersweet moment. Despite not having the video camera handy I'd already mentally addressed a freepost envelope to 'You've been framed'. The pay-off was that I'd have something to write about later in the day.

Rebecca was less than an arms-length away and so was able to haul him out in the blink of an eye. So whilst Ben was damp, upset and covered in goose-poop his head stayed above water. So if social services are reading then you can call the search off.

There was a great moment of comedy tension where our hosts, Tania and Kevin were evaluating the most appropriate response. Their shoulders had already begun to judder and their cheeks were twitching, but it was only as Lottie and I began to fall about hopelessly that they felt able to join in the laughter with thigh slapping abandon.

Fortunately we weren't far from base and we soon stripped Ben off and had him sluiced down in the bath. Half an hour later we were on our way to see Rowland and Sheila in Great Bend.

Great Bend is on the shore of Lake Huron. It's a small town with great access to what was described as a beach. I was sceptical, thinking that any beach on the shore of a lake would be unspectacular. I was about as wrong as it's possible to be. The beach was great, stretched for miles and was lovely and sandy.

Despite its obvious charm Ben seemed in no rush to load test his pampers again and stayed well away from the water.

I proceeded to do that thing that only Dads do which is to try to entice their kids into freezing water on the premise that a swim in a recently defrosted lake will be the best fun they've ever had. To perpetuate this myth Dads then continue to remove all but their underpants and wade manfully into the water. They then shout that obligatory 'actually the water's not that bad' thing, yet in sharp contrast hesitate for several minutes with the gusset of their pants just millimetres above the water. At this stage they usually flap about a bit, a mixture of splashing and trying to find a warmer patch of water until they realise no-one else is interested in supercooling their genitalia and worse still no-one is watching.

Today I was that Dad.

Later we returned to Rowland and Sheila's and ate homemade burgers, which kept everyone happy. To end the day on a humanitarian note Lottie and I even rescued a turtle. Neat huh?

May 11, 2005.

No Losses, Drownings Or Rescues

This post is a little later than usual. I generally write this just before going to sleep but last night I'd been involved in some important government work. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario are hard task masters. At least that's what it feels like this morning.

Yesterday was a relatively gentle day with no losses, drownings or rescues to report. We drove back out to the shores of Lake Huron to a park called the Pinery. The weather was much colder and as a consequence the whole place had much more of a wilderness feel about it. The lake is two hundred miles by one hundred and fifty miles. It's little wonder they call it a great lake. Standing on the beach is like looking out into the ocean. Quite incredible.

Our hosts right now are my aunt and uncle and they have some things that used to belong to my grandparents. Without being too sentimental it's nice that Lottie and Ben can see these ancestral artefacts. There's a clock on the mantelpiece here which used to be in Bromley Cross. It was great to see that again.

We had an email from Lottie and Ben's nursery who are following our adventures. Apparently the stories are being printed out and shared with the children. I can imagine the proud parents of three year olds all over Teesside who yesterday learned the new phrase 'supercooled genitalia'.

May 12, 2005.

Back On The Road

Today we left Grand Bend on the shores of Lake Huron and travelled back towards Toronto to overnight in Kitchener. As we were driving along the highway I was struck by the simplicity of the names of the retail outfits alongside the road. Back home it seems that the more convoluted and abstract the name of a shop the better. Not so in Canada. Spotted today were 'The Beer Store', 'Boat Shop' and my favourite, the terse but descriptive 'Meat'.

We bought neither beer, nor boats, nor meat, but once in Kitchener we did stop at the local Wal-Mart to see what the fuss was about. Holy smoke these guys sell everything. Initially we scurried around looking like we were doing a trolley dash in preparation for a nuclear winter. Then we got a grip; despite everything being super cheap, there was no way a patio set was going to make it onto the next flight as hand luggage.

Earlier in the day one of our buggies had fallen to pieces. It was no surprise really; it had been patched up several times and had seen some action during the four years that we'd had it. So after stripping it of vital components we threw it in the dumpster. It feels better being back down to one buggy; less clutter to transport. Lottie is going to have to learn to walk more quickly as a consequence.

We arrived back at Tania and Kevin's in the late afternoon. They had prepared spaghetti bolognese for us all. Ben added to his portfolio of stunts by slipping out of his chair restraint mechanism and diving headfirst to the floor. On the way down he stopped only briefly to up-end his bowl of pasta sauce splattering it all over the kitchen. The result was a Tracy Emin, Jackson Pollock style fusion. He'd have had a slot at MoMA if he'd done this a week ago.

Our hosts were as gracious as ever and spent the rest of the evening fishing spaghetti out of the air conditioning ducts and wiping sauce from the vertical blinds.

We leave Ontario tomorrow for the next leg of our journey to Alberta. Hey that's a whole new province to devastate.

May 13, 2005.