Cabin Fever Reliever

It was play day at school on Thursday … all afternoon.  Kids from JK to Grade 6 had eight activities to choose from, and they got to pick three of them.  What a marvelous thing for the school staff to create.

I decided to roam around the various rooms to see what tickled my fancy.  And “Minute To Win It” was my fave.  First there was “Elephant March”.  Imagine a pair of panty hose with a tennis ball bulging from one foot.  The waist band goes over your head, with the ball hanging in front of you.  Then the trick is to knock over two rows of plastic cups and water bottles.  If your elephant trunk swings are gentle, you can do it.  Too much oomph, however, and you get wildly out of control – about a zero chance of  upsetting anything.  It was hilarious.  Tiny kindergarten kids and confident Grade 6’s – it didn’t matter.  Everyone looked silly and laughter filled the room.

If impersonating a huge mammal isn’t your style, how about “Junk In The Trunk”?  Strap an empty Kleenex box just above your butt, fill it with eight ping pong balls and try to get them all dislodged in a minute.  Good luck!  Kids were upside down, right side up, jumping up and down, twisting and shouting.  Fun, fun, fun till the clock said 60.

I’m a pretty good spectator, but it was time for action.  My task was to keep three balloons aloft for the minute.  “I can do this.  I’ll pile the balloons on top of each other and then throw them straight up.  They’ll therefore be close to my body as they descend and it’ll be no sweat to send them vertical again.”  Ahh … the delusions of seniorhood.  How long did I last, you ask?  Three seconds.

Not everything was indoors.  The scavenger hunt covered the snowy schoolyard.  125 painted stones littered the landscape, apparently stuffed inside the bodies of deteriorating snowmen, hidden at the base of a climber, tucked into a little hollow – everywhere!

I told Jayne, the Grade 5/6 teacher, that I was on a mission to find one of those stones.  An hour before, I had watched a group of kids refine their search skills, and I vaguely looked around to locate my own personal treasure.  But I didn’t find anything.  Now, refreshed with preventing balloons from touching the earth, I knew this was my moment.

I told a gaggle of wandering children about my quest.  Immediately, I was deluged with:

“I know where there’s one, Mr. Kerr.”

“Come over here.  Look right there!”

“Let’s find one together, Mr. Kerr.”

So I was out and about with this short human being, then that one, and somebody else again.  Following speedy legs to all sorts of destinations.  But I still hadn’t located a stone on my own.  As the bell rang, signalling the end of the session, I trudged back towards the school, happy about my time with the kids, but sad with my empty hands.  And there, steps from the tarmac, sat a little snow drift, with a spot of yellow peeking out.  I too am a successful treasure hunter!

It was a smiley afternoon – for me, 15 adults and 200 young’uns.  Good for us.

Senegal

I was sitting on a bench on the Alberta prairie in July, 2017, admiring the mountains to the west.  I was alone, and very much looking forward to the sunset.  Along come four hikers.  We smile.  We say hi.  They sit down.  Turns out that they’re all from Belgium and are revelling in the grandeur of the Rockies.  One couple says nearly nothing.  The other one enjoy chatting with this Canadian guy.

After awhile, the folks head on up the trail, showering me with friendly goodbyes.  A half hour later, I set off too, having immersed myself in oranges and pinks.  The trail enters some trees.  Soon I’m back in the wide open spaces.  I look ahead and there’s another bench in the distance.  Two people are sitting there.  After a bit, I can make out my talkative new friends.  “They’re waiting for me.”  And indeed they were.

Lydia and Jo welcomed me to the new bench and we start talking about life in all its beauty and disappointment.  They tell me that they have about 20 foster children … in Senegal.  Lydia whips out her phone and shows me smiling photos and videos.  Those kids are so alive, so real.  I’m loving this.

Maybe an hour later, Lydia has something to say:

“Bruce, we go every Christmas to see our kids for two weeks.  Would you like to join us sometime?”

Oh my.  Did she just say that?  My small mind goes off into small thoughts.  “But we just met.”  “I can’t afford that.”  “I like being home for Christmas.”

Happily, my big mind held sway.  “Yes, I’ll go with you to Africa to meet your children … in December, 2018.”

Too soon, we were saying goodbye.  Lance’s family and I were heading off in the morning.  I hugged Lydia and Jo and it felt right.

Back home in Ontario, I had lots of thinking to do.  “I said yes.  I really did.”  Well, not knowing how many years I have left on the planet, isn’t it about time that I stretch my wings?  Yes it is.  I wondered if my Belgian friends thought I’d really follow through.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that Jo and Lydia and I and a few other fine people are flying from Brussels to Dakar on December 23, returning to Belgium on January 4.  Although I haven’t arranged my flight to Brussels yet, I intend to spend a week visiting my friends and seeing the sights before we fly to the kids.

This is real
I’ve never been to Europe
I’ve never been to Africa
This is real

Look at me now, a world traveller.  Also a lover of humankind in all its diversity.  Belmont is so cool.  I’m sure the rest of the world is too.  As Cat Stevens was fond of saying:

Well I left my happy home
To see what I could find out
I left my folk and friends
With the aim to clear my mind out
Well I hit the rowdy road
And many kinds I met there
And many stories told me on the way to get there
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
So much left to know, and I’m on the road to find out

Thank you, Mr. Cat

Running for the Ferry

I went to a lovely concert on Toronto Island yesterday. Sunlight streamed through one of the church’s stained glass windows onto the faces of the musicians – violinist, cellist and pianist.  Sweet sounds.

The concert finished with a heartfelt standing ovation around 4:00 pm.  I started chatting with some Islanders, knowing that the next ferry to downtown was at 4:30.  The one after that would be at 5:30.

At 4:10 I decided to bolt for the ferry.  There was no reason in the world why I couldn’t have opted for 5:30 instead.  I could have meandered through the trees and enjoyed the boardwalk back to the ferry dock.  But no … things to do and people to meet.

Two minutes of brisk walking and glances at my pink fitness tracker told me that I wasn’t going to make the ferry.  “Let go, Bruce.  5:30 is a lovely time of day.” However … the  next thing I know, some hidden orchestrator is propelling my feet into the air, otherwise known as running.

“Bruce – stop this!  You’re 69.”

“So?”

“Well, you might wreck yourself.  And then what would happen to your bike trip?”

“Oh, give it a rest.  I’m running and that’s that.  Get out of my way.”

“But you’re wearing a heavy winter coat.  And you’ll be using muscles that haven’t been stretched this way for years.  Plus you may be psychiatrically compromised.”

“What?!  ‘Psychiatrically compromised’?  You’re nuts.  Watch me fly.”

So I flew (sort of).  Graceful like a duck.  Fast as a dozey turtle.  Proud as a peacock.  Run some.  Walk some.  A trotting young couple passed me.  She hollered encouragement.  I saw them fade into my future.  A glance down at my Polar watch.  Four minutes to the whistle blast. More “running”.  No breath.  Ferry in sight.  Whistle. Twenty-five metres.  Crew member with neon vest starting to close the gate.  He sees me.  He stops.  No air and through the gate.  My woman friend is smiling and applauding.  The gold medal is mine.

Ain’t life grand?

Slip Slidin’ Away

I went on a class trip today with the Grade 5/6’s.

“In 1973, the Ska-Nah-Doht Village, located within Longwoods Road Conservation Area, was constructed.  It features a village reflective of the Native settlements found along the river close to 1,000 years ago.  This village, created with the information gathered by archaeologists and First Nation peoples, offers tours, workshops and an opportunity to see how First Nations people once lived.”

We made and decorated bowls from clay, sat in a longhouse, listened to our tour guide describe how important deer were to the native people, and saw the trees that these folks used so well.  Very cool.

But the best was being out and about with the kids.  On a break, I followed about fifteen of them along a road.  Down a little trail, we spied a pedestrian bridge spanning a shallow ravine.  The sign said “Maximum 40 adults”.  No sweat.  Soon we were all on the bridge, with the wood bouncing under our feet.  Great fun!

And then the question … Should I have allowed the kids to walk onto the bridge?  My answer – a resounding “yes”.  They had great fun and it was safe.  And the smiles were huge.

Later in the day, there was another opportunity to explore.  Maybe 20 kids this time.  A trail wandered through the sparse woods and soon we were at another hanging bridge, this one twice as long as the first.  Sadly, no bouncibility this time.  Five kids asked to climb down some steps towards a pond.  I said yes and watched their progress from the bridge, along with the remaining children.  One girl had found a 10-foot branch on the ground and recommended I use it as a walking stick.  So I awkwardly did, to the amusement of many.

A few folks wanted to break off some pieces of ice from the bridge and toss them into the ravine below.  I had them make sure there were no beings down there and then said “Go for it!”  More fun.  The kids who were near the pond climbed the hill beyond and joined us at the far end of the bridge.  Then it was time to go back.

Should I have been more cautious?  Should I have kept them off the bridge?  Should I have said no to the group who wanted to go near the pond?  Should I have said no to plummeting lumps of ice?  Well … I said yes.  Fun.  Safe.  I was watching.

And then the day ended.  We were back at the school with about 15 minutes to home time.  I was supervising 10 kids on the schoolyard.  Behind the Grade 5/6 portable was a circular patch of ice, about 40 feet in diameter.  The kids wanted to slide.  My answer was to head gingerly onto the ice and start floating along.  Right away, there was a line of 12-year-olds, soon zooming over the glassy surface.  Squeals of delight.  Bodies flopped every which way on the ice.  I loved it!

The small voice inside my head urged me to be aware of liability, school rules, angry parents.  Be careful.  The big voice retorted with fun, smiles and joy.  Be out there!  I voted for door number two.  The kids deserved it.

 

On The Tracks

I love walking.  I love Belmont.  I love finding places to walk in Belmont.

Today I went ‘splorin’.  Many times I’ve crossed the railway tracks at the south end of town in Scarlet.  I knew from the map that they headed northeast, crossing two east-west roads – Avon Drive and Harrietsville Drive.  Once I reached that second road, I could walk west till I hit the T-intersection at Belmont Road.  I figured that the whole thing would take me two to three hours.  Adventure!

As I sauntered south from my condo, I talked to three people about my journey.  Every one said “Be careful” while all I wanted to hear was “Have fun”.  Oh well, I’d do both.

At the entrance to the Belmont Farm Supply yard, I turned sharp left, and stepped onto the tracks.  Yay!  My plan was to walk on the gravel beside the rails but I soon found that it sloped steeply down to the side, and my ankles said no to that nonsense.  So that left a path between the rails, maneuvering over the wooden ties.  Sometimes the gravel between the ties was a few inches below, and that took inspired footwork.  But who cares?  I was out and about and all the vestiges of civilization were fading behind me.

My first visitor was a bird – a kildeer.  I’m guessing that it was a she because it puffed itself up on the gravel and screeched unkindly at me.  The babies must have been in the tall grass nearby.  “It’s okay, mom.  I’m not going to hurt you or the little ones.”  I skirted way around her and passed by, whistling a happy tune.

It was hot today, maybe 28º Celsius.  For the first bit, my way was enclosed by trees and bushes, and the old forehead was dripping.  That’s all right.  Adventurers need to overcome lots of stuff.  Then the village park on the left came to an end and so did all the trees.  Fields of brown (to be planted) and green (winter wheat) beckoned.  And the breeze caressed my face.  Ahh.

I could see a long way in both directions.  Farmsteads were wee in the distance and I was alone in the world.  Sometimes I like that.  I thought of train trips I’ve been on and how wondrous it was to see the natural world, far from roads.  It was the same today.  Just me and my ties and my gravel.

Swallows swooped and I was entranced with their beauty.  Sometimes pampas grass accompanied me, waving in the wind from their eight-foot highness.  I crossed Kettle Creek on a short trestle bridge, letting the sweetness of the flow mix with my fear of a suddenly approaching train.  No train, just the water below.

Once the tracks curved and for awhile there were no signal lights to be seen way forward or way back.  Wilderness!  So I told myself.

Soon Avon Drive was behind me and I knew that Harrietsville Drive would meet my feet within half an hour.  I felt a touch sad, knowing that cars would soon be my companions.

And then they were.

Pavement home was still fun, if missing the aura of mystery.  I looked at houses passing by and wondered about the lives of the folks inside.  Up ahead was a fellow whippersnipping some weeds in front of his place.  I went over to talk and he smiled.  “I saw you in the paper.”  And indeed I had been, in an article about the tree that a landscaper planted for me in front of the post office … for Jody.  We had a good talk.

And then it was just a couple of kilometres back to orange brick.  Home.

***

I guess I’m a Belmontonian
Starting to know the land and the people
It makes me happy

A Little Adventure

Why not create moments of oomph in my life?  And why not do it every day?

On Wednesday, I got an idea.  My neighbours Borot and Petra were about to leave on a 12-day Caribbean cruise.  They’d be spending a few days on the road before walking up the gangplank and they were so excited about it all.  Borot told me that they’d be setting off this morning sometime between 5:00 and 6:00.

So I did what any normal human being would do.  I bought a 20-pack of Timbits from my local Tim Hortons coffee shop.  They’re tiny donut balls – majorly yummy.  I went to bed early, setting the alarm for 4:15.  But I was too excited to sleep much.

After a morning shower, I brewed a cup of coffee, grabbed the Timbits, pulled on my winter coat, toque and mitts and sat down on the porch at 4:55.  I couldn’t wait for Petra’s garage door to start climbing.  I was ready to rush over with a Fare Thee Well present.

5:15.  Not a peep from two houses down.  Oh well.  The coffee’s good.  5:30.  The coffee’s cold so I rushed inside to the microwave, somehow believing that I could hear the garage door from my kitchen.  5:33.  Local human being bursts onto his porch, cup in hand.  Walks down the street.  Sees that there aren’t any lights on in Borot’s home.  Gosh, they better start showering soon.

5:45.  Nyet.  Those Timbits start looking good.  Then a possibility hits me: my friends left before 5:00.  Strangely, though I felt a twinge of disappointment at the prospect, I was almost giddily happy.  I’d never sat on my porch at this hour, watching pinkness grow in the east.  I was on a heroic quest but it didn’t seem to matter whether the result was produced.  The journey was lovely.

6:10.  Silence everywhere.  I imagined Petra and Borot zipping down the highway.  I thought of the Grade 6 kids I’d be visiting this afternoon.  I bet they like Timbits.  Twenty-seven children … twenty donut balls.  Oh, we’ll figure something out.

And we did.  Three kids were away.  A couple who were there didn’t want a donut.  The rest lined up in front of me and almost everyone thanked me for their little sphere of pleasure.  Two Timbits were left.  What if all three kids come back tomorrow?  Ahh, we’ll handle that too.

It was a fun day.  Here’s to many more.

 

Energies

Well, here I am, experimenting with energies.  I used to think that I wanted to hang out in the peaceful energy of meditation till the cows come home, but I’m no longer in that spot.  I want to see what edgy feels like, what intense doing feels like, what big crowds feel like, what bantering back and forth with another human being feels like.

So then there was yesterday.  I got up early and drove to Toronto.  After taking the UP Express train downtown, I meandered over to the ferry terminal.  I spent a minute or two holding the arm of Jack Layton (or that of a statue honouring him).  I thanked Jack for all he contributed to Toronto and Canada.  It was the quiet energy of relationship.

I got off the ferry on Ward’s Island at 11:00 am.  The brunch and concert at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church would start at 12:30 so I had lots of time to wander.

It was clean-up day on the shoreline and many island residents were picking up garbage, hoisting branches that had washed ashore, and sorting recyclables from not.  They often moved quickly from one task to the next.  I told several of them “The earth thanks you.”  Everyone smiled in response.  Overall, it was the exuberant energy of doing good.

I walked the tiny streets of Ward’s, surrounded by quaint cottages.  Green was everywhere.  Plants poking their heads above the earth.  Wide stretches of grass.  And yellow … masses of daffodils and large forsythia bushes.  Vines hung from many homes.  Only a few residents were up and about and I said hi when they were close.  It was the slow rhythmic energy of nature.

Next I put feet to wood on the shoreline boardwalk.  I waved to the few cyclists and walkers out for a stroll.  Often V’s of black birds soared over my head.  Squirrels did their digging and bouncing along things.  It was the pulsating energy of life.

And now for brunch.  A jampacked frittata, asparagus-infused greens, a gooey Italian cake and two glasses of red wine.  Such a nourishing energy.

I had some good moments with the people I was sitting with.  Smiles about life.  When the talk turned toward local news that I knew nothing about, I just listened.  It was a happy and sad energy … happy to be with human beings and sad that I wasn’t part of their group.

And now for music.  I listened to a jazz quartet – vocalist, saxophone player, pianist and upright bassist.  The tunes ebbed and flowed as they read off each other and gave each person the chance to shine in a solo.  Making it up as they went?  Sometimes it felt like that.  It was a spontaneous and creative energy, tender and then boisterous, and then back to sweet again.

The dessert of my day was back on the mainland.  I stood with a thousand other folks in Maple Leaf Square, where we gazed up at a huge screen and waved white towels.  Inside the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs were battling the Washington Capitals in a National Hockey League playoff game.  We cheered wildly for the big hits delivered by the Leafs, for the saves made by Frederik Andersen (“Freddie!  Freddie!”) and for the one Toronto goal.  We agonized as the Capitals came back to tie and then ended our season with an overtime marker.  It was the energy of winning and losing, of gain and loss, of them versus us.

***

So, I was awash in energies
And no one was better that any other
Just a human being embracing his world

Here and There

How strange that I haven’t felt like writing for a week.  Or maybe not strange at all.  Either way, here I am.

Lots of stuff has happened and I’ve vaguely said, “I should write about this tonight.”  And then tonight fades away in the rear view mirror.  After that, the topic seems stale.  I like writing fresh.

So what to do?  I think I’ll give you some snippets from the past seven days and then see what beckons me tomorrow.  Can I create “fresh” by doing this?  We’ll see.

***

I went to a brunch at the Belmont Diner today.  Near me at the lunch counter was a mom and her young daughter – maybe 5.  I enjoyed watching her colour and throw her hands at mom, all with a vibrant smile.  After we had eaten, “Brittany” sidles over to the chair beside me and eventually says, “You came into my classroom.”  And I guess I did, on a day a few weeks ago when I read Stanley At School to a whole bunch of classes.

My new friend bubbled away about the two plastic Easter eggs she had in front of her.  She shook the small one near my ear.  No sound.  “No surprises.”  Then the big one.  Something was rattling inside.  “Surprises!”  Opening it up, Brittany pointed out the chocolate yummies and the “hay” – little turquoise strings of plastic.  My job was to get the strings back inside so she could close the eggish lid.  I did okay, and together we got the job done, with just a few strands sticking out.  “Look!  The egg has a beard.”  So very cool.

Then Brittany launched into her counting skills.  After a bit, we were doing it in unison (70, 71, 72 …) with each of us watching the other person’s mouth form the words.  How wonderful that a short young person can create such joy in a taller, older one.

***

Thursday evening was momentous.  For the first time in at least ten years, I didn’t go to bed with a sleeping pill in my mouth.  With the help of my pharmacist, I’ve been weaning myself off the nasty little things.  Thursday was the beginning of a new two-week pattern – “Nothing, half, nothing, half …”  And I was scared.  What if I got no sleep at all?  How would I survive that?  Well of course I would, but I didn’t have to.  I awoke amazed after seven hours of shuteye.  How could that be?  Chemicals going into my body for maybe 4000 nights and then sleeping well without them.  Thank you, o powers of freedom.

Last night was the second “nothing” experience.  Surely it would be a piece of cake.  Surely the first night would be the worst.  But not so.  I struggled to get four hours.  After Thursday, I told myself to forget the schedule, that I was already free, with never a Trazodone to enter my body again.  But a wiser voice let me know that I needed to stick with the program, to be nice to my mysterious physical existence.  I’m glad I listened.

***

After school on Wednesday, I drove to New Sarum to see the Grade 6 girls play basketball.  I volunteer in their class.  I took a seat on the stage of the gym and waited for my friends to arrive.  And here they came.  Some of them saw me, smiled and came right over to sit in front of and beside me.  And there we chatted as two other teams took the floor for the first game.  It was special for me to sense that I was important to many of those young people.  Makes me wish I had kids.  I would have been a good dad.

The next day, at recess, some of the girls and boys wanted me to see the fort they’d built at the far corner of the schoolyard.  I was ushered into an airy wooden structure and offered a seat on their padded bench.  All seemed pleased that my weight didn’t collapse the thing.  I got to sit there and smile about the private space they’d created for themselves.  It was a privilege to be a guest.

***

On Good Friday, I went for a bike ride.  Sunny and warm.  Eight kilometres in, as I approached Harrietsville, I got a flat tire.  Boo.  I had to be back at 1:00 pm to go with my good neighbours Sharon and John to a gospel music concert in Kitchener.  As I stared at ta-pocketa’s plight, I realized that I’d forgotten how to change a tire, especially the more difficult back one.  “But Bruce, here you are preparing to cross Canada on your bike next year and you can’t even change a tire?”  Yep.  That’s true.  So humbling.

I started walking my bike and saw from the cycling computer that I was going 5 kph.  A quick calculation revealed that at this pace I’d return to my doorstep at 1:05 or so.  Good enough.  So on I went.

My trip home was sprinkled with sadness.  Probably 80 vehicles passed me.  Many no doubt thought it strange that here was a man walking his bicycle.  Did they wonder if I had a flat, or whether I was injured?  The net result was that no one stopped to see if I was okay, and maybe to offer me a lift home.  At least 15 pickup trucks came by.  Plus several vans, although I don’t know if they had room for ta-pocketa and me.  I felt sad that this particular slice of society didn’t respond to someone in need.  Oh, I wasn’t hurt, and with enough walking I would make it home just fine, but still …

***

Happily, I arrived home in time for my neighbours and me to join other folks on a bus leading to the Collingsworth family – mom, dad and four young adults (a son and three daughters).  Could they sing!  And the thousand of us in the audience were moving and grooving (some on the outside, some within).

The star of the show was mom Kim.  She sat at the black grand piano and blasted us with her virtuoso playing.  If only you could have heard “How Great Thou Art”.  During the fast parts, she was bouncing on the piano bench, head back in ecstasy as she belted out the words while her fingers flew.  And the best was watching her daughters nearby as Kim played.  Here was a mom expressing herself with every fibre of her being, and the girls were loving her for it.  They smiled, they nodded, they stared at their mother.  And all was well.

***

1100 words?  Cool.  Just a few more now:

The banquet is laid out every single day
How delightful to partake

Kids At Work

I went to a silent movie festival last night in St. Thomas, Ontario, with some early “talkies” thrown in.  The evening was to celebrate the life of Dell Henderson, a St. Thomas native who starred in many pioneering films.  It was wondrous!  Especially a five-year-old girl in 1912’s Sunbeam.  Our host told us that the wee actress died in her 40’s.  So I was looking at a darling ball of energy who’s been dead for 65 years.  Wow.  That stops me in my tracks.

I’ll call her Mary.  She lives in an apartment upstairs with her mom.  In the first scene, it appears that mother dies in bed, with the little one sitting beside her.  Mary looks to be in shock.  As the movie progresses, she befriends a depressed single lady who live in an apartment on the first floor.  The woman tries to shoo Mary away until the child gently takes her hand.  Then their eyes meet.  Then the woman melts.

Across the hall is a harried single fellow, caught up in the stress of life.  Mary walks right into his apartment.  He’s aghast at her intrusion and tries shoving her out the door.  But Mary works her magic again and soon he too is putty in her hands.

Older friends of Mary post a “Scarlet Fever” sign on the gentleman’s door.  Somehow Mary gets the lady to check on the apparently ill fellow.  Then the police come and quarantine the three of them in his apartment.  Mary holds hands with both of them and soon the adults are looking into each other’s eyes.

Once Mary’s dead mother is discovered upstairs, the young man and young woman, through the magic of non-verbal communication, launch a plan to wed and adopt Mary.

Not a sophisticated film, but so what?  A very sentimental effort, but again so what?  Look what a five-year-old girl can do.  I volunteer with twenty-seven 12-year-olds.  I sense they’re just as powerful.

***

And then there was Choo Choo, made in 1932.  Here’s a review:

“Without a doubt, Choo Choo has to be one of the finest Little Rascals films ever made.  [The kids were also known as “Our Gang”.]  During a stopover, some orphans convince the gang to take their place on the train that’s taking them to their new home.  The gang manages to make the train ride a living hell for the prissy, child-hating Mr. Henderson, (played by Dell Henderson) who is assigned the unenviable task of shepherding the “orphans” to their final destination.  There is enough mayhem here to rival any Three Stooges short – perhaps this was inspired by the Stooges themselves who were as popular during this period.  There is not one wasted performance here – Wheezer, Stymie, Sherwood and Breezy, and of course Spanky, who steals the show without a single word of dialogue, socking Henderson in the nose.  Henderson’s response (“Nice boys don’t do that!”) earns him another bop in the face.  The mayhem accelerates as a drunken novelty salesman passes out noisemakers to the gang in the sleeper car.  Things then go from bad to worse when Stymie and a monkey in the freight car release a menagerie of animals into the sleeper section of the train.  One can tell that everyone involved in the making of Choo Choo must have had a great time doing it – and it shows.”

So … a somewhat different display of kid power.  I sure don’t condone hitting people in the face, but oh, was it funny!  The adults had no chance against the cunning of children.  Makes me want to be one again (maybe for a day).  I wonder what mischief I could get up to.  And as for Sunbeam, what kindness could I send to sad adults?

On The Bike Again … Part Two

I get nervous every time I start cycling again.  And it had been many months since my bum was glued to the saddle.  I have clipless pedals, meaning that my shoes are attached to the pedals.  When I need to stop, the idea is that I jerk my left foot leftward and it detaches (from the pedal, not my leg).  Once I’m stopped, I detach my right foot.  If I fall, the impact sets me free so I don’t break an ankle.  Sounds good.

Last Monday, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get my left foot off the pedal since there really wasn’t any lubrication between the metal piece on the sole of my shoe and the pedal.  Being a resourceful type, I poured gobs of chain oil on the offending parts.  I then snuck around to the side of the garage, got astride ta-pocketa and did a clip-and-unclip dance for several minutes.  I hoped that my neighbours weren’t watching.  (John and Sharon, you’re not reading this, are you?)

Appropriately chagrined with my irrational fears, I pushed my dear bike to the roadway.  It was time.  I had a funky cycling jersey on my back (featuring a snarly clown), padded shorts on my rear end, and a red, white and black helmet atop my noggin.  My destination?  South Dorchester School, where I intended to surprise unsuspecting 12-year-olds.

It was 11.9 kilometres and I was painfully gaspy.  I unclipped and reclipped a dozen times before I convinced myself that I hadn’t forgotten everything I’d learned on the bike.  A slight slope became a 20% Tour de France mountain.  I started pooping on myself but then happily gave it a rest.  My fitness is what it is.  Over time, it will be what it will be, i.e. better.

My goal was to roar up to the Grade 6 portable about ten minutes before afternoon recess.  I got there two minutes before the bell.  A boy was opening the door, heading into the school.  He stopped, gaped, and rushed back inside the classroom.  “Mr. Kerr’s here and he’s on his bike!”  I entered the fray and was surrounding by short people staring at my getup, especially at that nasty clown.  Questions, questions, questions, and between pants the occasional answer.

I stayed through recess and for half an hour thereafter, opening myself to curious children.  Then they started working on an assignment and it was time for me to go.  On went my helmet, on went my jacket, and on went my fanny pack.  I waved goodbye and headed outside to get foot reacquainted with bike.  All attached, I heard voices behind.  At least twenty kids were out on the playground, cheering my departure.  Their teacher Tiffany was leaning out a window, recording it all for prosperity.  Thus inspired, I cycled away, feeling like an Olympic hero.

I love volunteering.