At the other end of the telephone line, a warm, familiar drawl from “across the pond.” It’s our Canadian cousin Bob, calling with a belated thank you for our Christmas greetings.
He has just arrived home from Florida where he spent the winter, returning to over two foot of snow - and our annual festive message. I get the impression that one is more welcome
than the other - and it isn’t the snow. I tell him that we are basking in sunshine today, a perfect Spring day in England and he says he wishes he were here.
wants to know all about the family, especially the latest exploits of our Tremendous Ten grandchildren. When he last saw us, young Sam was a new-born baby and five of our Tremendous Ten were not yet born. I promise to send him photographs of all ten, so that
he can see how they have all grown. He tells me that our family features on a montage of photographs which make up the screensaver on his computer so he is reminded of us almost every day. What a lovely thought, to be remembered so!
I put the handset on speakerphone so that Mr B can hear and join in the conversation. I am thinking, as we chat, of what remains unspoken but I am pretty sure we are each of us conjuring up happy memories
of the times Mr B and I spent in Canada and the holidays when Bob and his wife, Jackie, spent with us in England.
Mr B, I know, will be remembering sitting early
mornings sitting on the deck outside Bob and Jackie’s cottage on Lake Mackay, listening for the call of the loons rising out of the morning mist. It was his favourite time of day. I will be remembering the long journeys - 2152 miles in four days - that
we took across Northern Ontario, when I would play cribbage with Jackie on the back seat of Bob’s car, following our progress on a large-scale map and listening to the Music of Choice on the CD player. There was one particular CD of songs and speeches
from the War years - sirens wailing, Vera Lynn singing about blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover and Winston Churchill thundering about blood, sweat and tears. Whenever Jackie found herself bored with Bob’s favourite CD (Opera without Singing)
she would declare loudly: “ Let’s have the War! We need the War to cheer us all up!” And so we did. And so it did.
Bob will be remembering the
day we took them over to France on the ferry to visit the battlegrounds where his uncle took part in the D Day landings. We visited a recently opened museum commemorating the part Canada played in the Second World War - did you known that Canada lost more
men, per head of population, than any other country? - and the Canadian cemetery, an avenue of tall, sweeping maple trees marking its entrance.
is no longer with us to share her memories - but I reckon one of hers would be sitting at an ancient harpsichord in a reconstructed Pioneer Village, playing God Save the Queen, followed by a passionate rendition of Oh, Canada. Around us all the guides, dressed
in period costume, joined in the Singing with gusto. I am in tears, remembering.
We would all, I know, be recalling the trip to the theatre to see The Canadian
Loonie, starring one Neil Aitchison as Canadian Mountie Constable Archibald Finkster. On our way to the theatre we needed a quick lesson in Canadian politics from our cousins, all the better to understand the humour. The American President of the time had
been quoted as saying that he wanted to see “a softer, kinder America”. “He wants Canada!” exclaimed Constable Finkster. Cue much laughter.
still have the diary I kept from our second visit in 2008, complete with poorly executed drawings (I am no artist) and some of the quotes I picked up along the way, some funny, some clever, many inspirational. Bob’s oh-so-welcome phone call prompted
me to search it out - I found it tucked away on a book shelf in our front bedroom. As I read, more and more memories came flooding back.
The last entry is from
Bob and Jacky who have written: “We have so enjoyed your visit here with us! It’s been fun to travel together, laugh together, sing together, play together and, of course, eat together!! Thanks for your generosity and smiling faces.”
Underneath Bob has commented: “Just think, we met as relatives but continue to meet as dear friends...”
Today we met again across the miles - thanks to an unexpected but very precious phone call.