Been hanging around this familiar territory now for the past 2 weeks. I am departing tomorrow for my other London home in England. My best friend and I are going to be looking for a narrow boat to live on along the canals. Adventure in the air. A part of me shall miss this great country. So much space and so many fine folk. But, all my bags are packed. I’m ready to go. I’m not one for staying put at the best of times. Got to move. Restless at 64. Keeps you young.
Speaking of fine folk, that’s what makes these visits back to Canada (Ontario specifically and the southern Ontario precisely)…. the people I know and many that I meet. My good gods are those who work in the shops and restaurants here ever friendly. Hard to come by back home. Island sickness I think. But here, in Ontariariario, I feel at home everywhere I go. There have been a few grumpy sorts, but it’s rare and I put it down to the fact that maybe the grumpy ones are not feeling well that day….out of sorts or something.
It’s easy to like people you know who are nice to you. But there is something special about the folk I know over here. I have to confess, since moving to England just over 9 years ago, I have become somewhat of a recluse….hiding in my studio or behind this laptop writing my books and only seeing people when I’m teaching them music. My trips into the centre of London are usually to visit a museum or some historic site. I have very few friends over there. My choice really. I have my best friend anyway. What more do I need? But here, in Canada, the friend list is longer. Makes sense because I grew up here, but it goes deeper than that.
You know who your friends are when you go through the mill, are ground up and spit out to be left as waste that needs to be disposed of and forgotten. The friends are the ones who gather you up, see potential in the chaff and reconstitute you because they like chaff as much as they like the grist. Friends stay with you. If they criticise, it is to build up, not destroy. There is an honesty between real fiends that is as fresh when you see them every day as it is when years separate you. I am privileged to have friends like this.
My best friend and I visited a few on the last weekend we were in Canada. One has been a friend for many years through thick and thin. Our families were close when my dad was the minister of a church in Weston, Ontario. As crazy as this friend can be at times (aren’t we all?), the good heart is forever first and foremost in my friend’s life. I always know what my friend is thinking. One of those people who has few filters in the thinking and speaking process. But I love my friend for it. There have been some times in recent years when I needed special support. My friend has been there. We laugh a lot when we are together. My best friend and I stayed at this friend’s place for a night on the weekend in question. So very hospitable.
My other friends live in what we call ‘The Cabin’ in the woods somewhere north of Toronto. They are a couple that mean the world to me. We share so many things together, but the greatest gifts are honesty and music. They also have a dog, a Golden Retriever (my favourite breed) who is as gentle as the mist. The dog they had before this one, another Retriever, was as intuitive as any human I have known. He knew how I was feeling and always had a way of comforting me when I was down. We became good buddies. I cried when he died.
We share our stories, drink wine (or beer), play guitars and sing our favourite songs, eat heartily and go for long walks in the woods. On this visit, we sat outside on a lovely, cloudless, warmish April day, a fire blazing, the beer flowing, the stories being told and winged friends of every kind flitting about eating from bowls of seed provided by my good friends. The Retriever lay in the shade, the breeze sang through the trees. It doesn’t get any better than that. For a moment, time stood still. My best friend loved every minute.
On Saturday night, my best fiend and I attended a Pub Night with friends from the High School I attended. Many of them I got to know on Facebook ( a lifeline I shall never diss, as addictive and silly as some of it can be). The evening celebrated the one year anniversary of a radio sports show that is brilliant. I pick it up in England and catch up on all the sports. The two chaps who host the show greeted me like a long-lost friend. We hugged and laughed together and along with everyone else present enjoyed the magnificent tones of another friend who played guitar in front of the weirdest band you ever will have the pleasure of hearing. They never miss a beat. Good times.
And still another couple looked after my aunt and uncle while my best friend and I stayed at The Cabin. We dropped them off on our way. I have been friends with both for a long time. My best friend knows them well too. We can see each other infrequently and yet the bonds remain strong. No judgments on either side, just acceptance and mutual respect.
Now….before this gets too maudlin, let me say that old friends can at times exasperate. I know I can drive them crazy with my off-the-wall humour and my scattered mind. My opinions can annoy, just as some of them cause me to shake my head sometimes. But we stay in touch and if one suffers we all suffer. We rejoice in good times and mourn when one of us dies. Maudlin again, but most of us become more sentimental as time passes. I sure do. I shed a few tears every time I said goodbye this past weekend. Two weeks are not enough time to say hello then goodbye. But….it’ll have to do.
So it’s au revoir Canada, once again. See you again some time in the future if the Fates allow. This great country has been my home for most of my life and I shall never forget all that it has given me. Never take it for granted where ever you live in its vast expanse. And, never take your friends for granted….your real friends. They are a precious commodity. If you find yourself in the land of Blighty, please come by….friends that is. If you’re not sure whether you fit into that category and I have only friended you on Facebook, remember this: You are all welcome. But as I often say, “Please, not all at once.” Oh yeah, bring a box of Timbits please.