Preparing to return to Europe and our beloved Skookum required putting many of the pieces of our travel puzzle in place. Our decision to return to our life of roving came towards the end of our 2013 trip. I think it was when it was cold and windy in the Ems we decided we needed to head south next: to and through France via the Netherlands and Belgium. It is quite a long way and takes quite a few months on a boat like ours.
The last few months have flown by as we settled into regular life in Victoria. Mum and Joan were with us over Christmas and Joan went home on January 9.
Lilian, Kerry and Joan in January
Mum stayed with us for another two months – taking a trip to the Okanagan and a run up to Nanaimo to see Tim. We had rolled along until the weekend before my mum’s flight home on March 10. We had been invited to the magical and now famous place that is Whistler Mountain (remember the 2010 Olympics). The weather was wet (well it is in a rainforest), and dark as we took the winding road through Squamish to Whistler village – Creekside village at the base of the mountain. We (Martin, my mum and myself) were guests of Kim – our beautiful friend. We manoeuvred Lilian down steep icy steps – with no problem, once inside she was agile and steady. Our weekend on the mountain (yes Martin and I skied the Ego Bowl – amazing!) ended with a drive up the Pemberton valley through breathtaking mountains, soaring peaks against bright blue skies. Everyone took in the vistas and felt it was a fitting end to Lilians visit to Canada. We even took her to Tim Hortons for a bowl of soup. Mum flew safely to Heathrow where my cousin Veronica met her and took her back to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. All seemed well with Lilian as the winter was almost over and she was happy to be back in her own life.
Martin and I went on a road trip to Tofino (5 hours from Victoria) in mid March driving via Nanaimo. It was also my son Tim’s 30th birthday, he lives in Nanaimo so we spent the night there and had a family dinner with dear old friends Terry and Lawrence in a nice organic restaurant in the old town. The next day we met Neil and Gintare, (from Saltspring Island), climbed to our car and drove to the West Coast for a couple of days by the great Pacific Ocean and all its vast freshness. We had done this before about 4 years ago when Neil turned 60 and he married Gintare (for the second time)– such fun. Tofino and Ucluelet are two small towns on the far west coast of Vancouver Island. Their combined population is around 6000 but they host over a million visitors every year – people from over the world who come to see the Grey Whales, storm-watch and surf the white waves crashing onto Long Beach – a huge sandy shore that has received and been shaped by the millions of daily tides that have graced these beautiful coastline.
Mackenzie Beach – Tofino.
West Coast Tree Giants
We stayed in the Middle Beach Hotel – a perfect piece of architecture for this coast. We visited to both towns – the newly completed aquarium in Ucluelet, the gardens, galleries and restaurants in Tofino on a lovely spring weekend.
Tofino in Spring
In the meantime we also had to move into preparation mode for our 2014 Sojourn. It is so comfortable in Victoria that it is easy to never move from here – we call it the ‘Velvet Rut’. We needed to apply effort to renting our house for the summer. An ad on the Sabbatical Homes website brought some interest and we met a very interesting couple travelling around Canada – looking for a retirement spot. They agreed to take our house and were very interested in our multifaceted garden. They became an essential piece of the puzzle that is this part of our sojourn by renting our house.
Another piece was selling our sailboat ‘Chuan’. We had not used it for three summers – so it was time to save some money in moorage and insurance costs. Again Martin moderately successful selling Chuan to someone who would really appreciate it. We didn’t get the price we wanted but we did get a price we could live with.
Things were going along just fine, cleaning up the ‘hell-hole’ aka our basement and doing the garden when I get a text from my cousin telling me to call him, then I got an email with the same message. I thought it was late in the UK by the time I got the message Vince told me that my 87 year old mother had fall and her broken shoulder, spent seven hours in the emergency ward, and then she was admitted to hospital. I was a bit shocked but had to think, and talk with Martin. We agreed I would leave in couple of days and booked an expensive flight to Hull.
My cousin Vince and Lisa
It was tricky as I also had commitments – like finishing a course I was teaching for the past 8 week for the local counselling agency, my son’s planned visiting for the weekend to do a course, getting our house in order for tenants etc. But, I only have one mum and she was in a lot of pain and some danger so I had to go the UK even though it took a gruelling 27 hours on the ferry, a couple of aeroplanes and waiting around airports.
It was heart wrenching to seeing my sweet old mum looking so tiny and vulnerable in her hospital bed. She was operated on the day after I arrived so I was able to see her as soon as she returned to the ward after her operation. She had had her full scapula replaced with a plate and had a plastic arm socket. I had to leave and return to Canada prior to her being released from hospital. The NHS certainly provided good care – very kind nurses and lots of staff to help people. However, the aftercare or social care programs do not measure up. The OT determined that my mum could go home, which to my mind was not only impossible, it was cruel to send this poor old lady home alone with only the use of one arm. I was very concerned and persuaded my mum to pay for aftercare in a local facility at £450 per week. She stayed there three weeks and had some limited physiotherapy follow up. However my cousin warned me about the poor quality of aftercare. These social services are run by the local council and as he said “the bluer the council (i.e. Conservative) the poorer the (social care) services”. If she had been in Hull instead of the East Riding of Yorkshire her aftercare would have been both free and more available. Certainly BC has a much better program despite our province’s mean-spirited conservative type of government.
I returned home to finish our packing and spend time taking our leave from friends and family in Canada. We also had a few social engagements – not least of which was a weekend I had planned with a bunch of my women friends in the lovely resort of Point No Point.
View across the Juan de Fuca Strait from Point No Point
We had booked our weekend in February so it was important for me to go. This happy band of women who have been my friends for many years, gathered for a lovely weekend walking the beaches, talking, doing yoga and Jin Jystu eating and drinking: at dinner there were 11 of us chatting and eating. Our Westcoast Wild Women’s Weekend was a great success and we promised to do it again next year.
Getting back from my weekend away meant picking up the pace of packing up the house and gardening (getting ready for the summer) and enjoying more rounds of spending time with friends. Easter was late this year and it was certainly contrast to Easter 2013 when we were watching the Semana Santa parades in Malaga. Spain.
The time has soon past with celebrations like Easter and our 10th Wedding Anniversary – which we celebrated by having dinner in a restaurant.
We combined celebrations (anniversary, leaving and birthday) and invited our pals (many of whom had been at the wedding) to our ‘Pub Night’ on April 25th. We have had a beautiful month in April and our pub night was no exception so we had started early with people arriving around 6:00 pm to enjoy the warmish evening and views to the mountains.
We were in our final week of preparations and farewells when we celebrated the ancient feast of Beltane/May Day on April 30 and May 1st (and my birthday) by dancing in the dawn at the beach (Clover Point) in Victoria. Beltane is celebrated in northern Europe as the marriage of the Green Man and the May Queen. In Edinburgh it is a community festival ( sponsored by the government) that takes place on Carlton Hill in the centre of the city. We attended this festival (which starts at around 9:00 pm and goes until 2:00 am) in 2011, and were impressed that despite the coldness of the night, many of the thespians were wearing nothing but a coat of paint.
I think, and I am open to correction here, that Canada and the US are the only countries in the world that do not celebrate May 1st as a holiday – Mexico, South America, Europe, Russia, China etc all closed down on this day. Even the UK celebrates May Day albeit on the first Monday after May 1. Maybe this could be the start of a new campaign to align North America with the rest of the world and have a public holiday on my birthday (LOL), although I never worked on my birthday on principle. Canada and the US are actually rather non-co-operative when it comes many global standards including weights and measurements, paper sizes and even the 24 hour clock. Maybe their respective governments should get the message that bucking the world trends in such things could be actually quite expensive in both real and opportunity costs.
The leaving parties continued with visits, dinners and an evening with my friend Linda Darby as she opened her new showing at the Martin Bachelor Gallery in Victoria. This was a splendid evening of farewells and entertainment. After the opening we went off to a sailor party (with former and current members of the Turkey Head Sailing Club) to say more farewells and bon voyages to other intrepid canal explorers.
By the time we were ready to leave on May 6 we were exhausted from all our celebrations, organizing (even selling Martins Mini), cleaning etc and looked forward to visiting our friends in the Netherlands. Our friend with a big vehicle took us to Victoria Airport where we, three (Kerry and her carry box), boarded a plane to Calgary there we changed planes onto KLM that took us to Amsterdam. We arrived on a sunnyish day in the Netherlands (much cooler than it was when I passed through in early April) to be met by our friend Erwin who drove us to Dordrecht where we spent three days recovering from jetlag and reacquainting ourselves with friends, Dordt and the Netherlands. It felt like we were coming to our second home. Heather (Erwin’s wife) is a Canadian on her way home….. She is looking forward to returning to Canada to live, after seven years away.
We felt quite at home in a familiar setting with familiar faces and people who understood our language. Hopefully they will join us for a weekend this summer before Heather leaves and Erwin starts working on their house to convert it to apartments. Once that is complete he too will be moving to Canada. We will have to visit them in Canada in the next few years – perhaps when we sail the Trent Canal in Ontario.
After our visit in Dordrecht I flew to the UK to take care of my mum (who is recovering nicely) for a couple of weeks while Martin deals with the boat, the boat yard and cleaning our bottom!