Covid Summer of 2020

Before I begin I want to apologize for being so long in publishing this latest blog. I work in a program called WordPress and it is a very professional platform, but recently they have changed the way you edit your writing and I, just a simple little senior, okay not so simple, or little, have had a very challenging time with this new program. So here goes. I hope it works

our home in Toronto
and front garden

It is now the end of August and almost the end of summer. There is even a chill in the morning air, although I know we are not finished with warm weather. It has been a good summer, albeit an unusual one. I think the most important part of these times is an appreciation I have cultivated for simple things like the beauty of a summer’s day, the rich green of our trees and grass, the glorious flowers in the garden, the walks with my dog, Oscar, down the street, through parks, and his unabated joy when he spots a squirrel or meets another dog. I like working at my second floor desk in front of a window that looks down on my street and watch the masses of cyclists going by, and it seems there are so many more who have taken to their bikes this summer. I have come to love our dinners in our small, but totally charming and private back garden. We have now installed a small fountain and have had a sign made for Oscar’s little house, although he never goes in it. And we have a patio heater that certainly takes the edge off the cool nights. We are learning to live in a different way.

Oscar, geese and waterfalls on our walk, me in the garden relaxing

my favourite mask wearer, pretty scary

I like that Torontonians wear masks when they go indoors. It is now a law, but it is comforting to know that we care about each other and the numbers of Covid positive people is dropping. Well when I wrote this originally our numbers were dropping, but now nearly the end of September, they are rising again and mostly in our younger population. I assume it is because they think it can’t happen to them, or that they just want to party in large numbers. Who really knows?

Evan, a neighbour, cooking octopus on our barbecue

In my neighbourhood when I walk down the street, and I do that many times a day with Oscar, people I pass give me space. We all move that 6 feet out of respect for each other. Seems to me that Canadians are about the common good. Well most are. The younger ones seem to flout the rules and party at the beaches. Alas.

Charles and I have cancelled the three trips that we would have taken this summer, two out of the country, and one to visit our grand daughter in Vancouver, her parents, and uncle too, and to spend some time exploring that gorgeous province. We will not go to Prince Edward Island where we have visited the last two summers with our friends, Liz and Wouter, because PEI requires a 14 day quarantine for any out-of-province visitors and they are very strict. I will truly miss my favourite view from their window with the Atlantic beyond, and the splendid seafood, but alas we are here, and determined to enjoy ourselves. Liz and Wouter went twice to enjoy their beautiful home there, called Ravenglass, and brought back oysters and lobsters and feted us in our garden. Simply memorable. Wouter shucks a pretty mean oyster. We supply the champagne, wine, and accompaniments and we did a great catch up of their trip.

beautiful PEI outside Ravenglass last year
offerings from PEI- yum
Wouter shucking the oysters

I know I have written this before, but it really helps to have a routine. I wake around 6:30 every day and soon after Charles is up and we listen to the CBC radio news. Oscar is harder to wake up, but one of us lets him out in the back garden. Depending on the day and our individual activities one of us gives him a good long walk. I do enjoy this morning exercise. Since we moved into Stage Two my golf course and Charles’ gliding club have been open with strict protocols in place. I like to play Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays if the weather co-operates, and he flies, again depending on the weather, but sometimes he just goes to the airport and works on his plane or visits with the guys there. Every Monday I have a private Pilates hour session with my wonderful teacher, Alisa, on Zoom. I found a mat and ball weight in the basement, and she got me a dyna band.  I find I really concentrate during the hour as there are no distractions except a dog wandering in from time to time in one of our places. I usually have a juice and some cheese before, and after the session which ends at noon, I am ready for lunch.

The indoor public pool that I like is now open again with special protocols. I book my lane swims online and arrive and depart without using the locker room. I have learned over the years how to get out of a wet bathing suit modestly and into my sweat clothes as this is accomplished in the pool area. We wear masks to enter the building and leaving it, but not of course when swimming. It is very civilized and I like it. And now as I write in September, the protocols have changed. I still book online on a Thursday morning for the following week, arrive about 10 minutes early, wait to be asked questions about my health, then enter wearing a mask. I can change out of my outerwear in the locker room, quickly stand under a running shower, then go into the pool area where I wait until a whistle is sounded, the swimmers from the previous time slot leave, and then 8 of us go to our assigned lanes. One lane is for non-swimmers who can exercise. The water is warm and lovely and very clean. We cannot leave anything in the locker room, but have to carry our bagged stuff into the pool area which is huge. The swim is 30 minutes and then a whistle is sounded and we quickly leave. During the heat of the summer, I was fortunate to use a friend’s pool to swim lengths, and another current small pool to exercise. I love my water time, as it is also a time to meditate, and often to plan meals, lots of random thoughts float through my brain when I am swimming.

I am so fortunate to play golf. The course that I play at, Islington Golf Club, is very beautiful, and it is simply great to spend time with friends, socially distant of course. The patio is very large and there is lots of room for tables to be spaced out. The servers wear masks, and things are pristine. And the view on our 18th hole and creek is superb. How lucky I am to have taken up this sport, albeit late in my fifties. I will never be a great golfer, but I just adore it, and it challenges me to always try to get better. Good for my brain and good for my body even though I take a cart. Carts cannot be shared unless with a family member, or if the plastic divider is lowered between the seats. This Covid summer we are missing many of the entertainments that make our ladies section so much fun, but nevertheless it is all good times. And at least once a week Charles and I go to the patio for dinner and watch the sunset and enjoy pretty good food. I do plan the annual ladies luncheon celebrating Past Captains and Past Presidents with golf, and a club sponsored lunch that is a thank you for our service. This year it was on the patio after our golf.

golf course views below

Speaking of patios, many more are opening now that Toronto is in stage 3. One of our favourite restaurants, Azarias, has been able, thanks to a progressive City Council, to open a patio in a parking lane of the street. There are many tables, beside a charming trellis work with some greenery that has definitely enhanced the environment next to the street, although it is a bit noisy, it is worth it, and we love our little table for two next to the window of the restaurant, which is open with partitions and tables distanced from one another. We have not been in as yet, still strongly believe in the outdoors for our protection. Merlot, has always had an upstairs patio, and you can get some of the best frites in the city there. Vibo, has created a small patio. It serves very good Italian food with an emphasis on seafood. Of course there must be hundreds in this large city, but these are within walking distance. All this means a break for Riki from the kitchen.

at Azarias with owner Mark in the background
at Merlot upstairs patio
pasta at Vibo

I was talking about routine and after we have done what we do during the day, including reading and napping, I then prepare dinner at 6:00 while listening to the National News on CBC radio. I try to make every meal different and mix up meat meals and non-meat meals. Last night I made a wedge salad with fresh and sun dried tomatoes, a light blue cheese dressing, and a bit of bacon. We then had tasty French onion soup filled with Gruyere cheese sitting on baguette toast rounds. The soup went under the broiler to crisp up the cheese. Sometimes I do large scallops sautéed till caramelized. I will use a bit of Ketjapmanis and sesame oil to flavor. I have some delicious leftover roast smashed potatoes that I will heat up and bake a tomato and fill it with corn salad, also leftover. This has some jalapeno peppers in it for a tangy taste. Prep usually takes a half hour, then I join Charles in the bedroom and watch the television news. We alternate each night who will start the bath, because it does take a while to fill. We then share the bath, which is a large Whirlpool tub, and believe it or not we have lots to talk about. When the weather gets colder we just leave the water in the tub overnight to provide some much needed humidity.

a garden view
fountain daytime
fountain at night

Dinner in the garden most nights and now we can listen to our fountain and put the big heater on if there is a chill. Candles lit, wine toasted and we enjoy the twilight and now the early darkness. And it is truly lovely in the dark with the music playing on the outdoor speakers. Normally it is jazz. Then we watch some show on Netflix, or check out the tennis if there is a tournament on. I love watching the matches especially if there is a Canadian playing. Our current show is in Danish, called Rita. It is lighthearted, fun and sexy. We both usually manage to stay awake until about 11:00 then we read for a bit and crash with the dog on my left side snuggled in close. Years ago it was Charles. Ha Ha.

Sadly, our garden also provided a sanctuary for a Tribute to our dear friend from Florida, Jerry Frein. We met Jerry, and his wife Lynn, when we first arrived in our little town of Howey in the Hills in Central Florida. We became friends immediately and have remained so for over 20 years. If it had not been for Covid, and our closed border, I would have been down to Florida in a heart beat to comfort Lynne. Alas texts, emails, Face Time and phone calls have had to suffice. There are a few folks here in Toronto who also knew Jerry in Florida, and we thought it appropriate to have a dinner and our wonderful little garden proved the best place to hold it. It was a shared dinner and we had my ipad ready to interact with Lynne, and her daughter, Janet, in Florida so they could be part of our ceremony. Everyone here took part and I sang a Russian lullaby at the end. It was a beautiful night. Afterward we ate dinner, drank wine and remembered Jerry. He was a gentleman; intelligent, soft spoken when he did speak, as he was mostly a great listener. He was generous and kind, and truly cared about others. He will be missed.

Jerry Frein
singing a Russian Lullaby and sharing on FaceTime with Lynn

In my next blog I will tell you about some very special events we have managed to enjoy; a trip to a gorgeous Ontario Inn called Langdon Hall, a special performance by Tapestry theatre, a fabulous immersive Van Gogh exhibit, a visit to Niagara on the Lake, and the on air concerts Live from the Metropolitan Opera that I have savoured. Soon it will be Thanksgiving here in Canada, and we will celebrate that. Please stay safe and be well.

As always,

Riki

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