OR “SUE GOES WALKABOUT” SUSAN ANN CANN This Life Story is for future generations of Cann’s, and for my family and friends. You may be interested in our family roots, or be a genealogist eager to extend the family tree. In any case, I thought you might enjoy reading about my life, my interests and opinions, likes and dislikes. I wish my ancestors had left their life stories, it would have made them come alive for a time. That is what I wish this epistle will do for you.
I will start with the basics of course. I was born Susan Ann Cann, on a Sunday afternoon, July 12, 1953, at the Hospital for Mothers and Babies in Woolwich, London, England. I weighed 6 lbs, 6 ozs., and the maternity nurse told my mother I would be an actress. Well, I never went on the stage, but we all act a part throughout life, very few of us show our true face to others, and of course, later on in my life, I performed as Mrs. Santa, Sparkles the Elf, and Suzy Q the Facepainter. My parents were Iris Joyce (nee Rivers), who was 21 when I was born, and Ronald Frederick Cann, 27 years old. They met when Mum was 16 and Dad was 22. I should explain that both families were connected by marriage, as my paternal grandmother’s brother (Dad’s uncle Frank (Spurden)) was married to my maternal grandfather’s sister (Mum’s aunt Olive). I hope you have fun working that one out, as I did! In fact, here is the story, in her own words, of how Mum met Dad:
“I met Dad in 1948, at Xmas, when Auntie Olive and Uncle Frank took me to Bury St. Eds. They were my godparents and they persuaded my parents that I would enjoy Xmas with the Cann family. (I was 16 at that time).
The Cann family had forgotten that I was 16 and they were expecting a much younger guest. However, it was a good visit and I enjoyed Bury and the Cann family. I was surprised when I received a letter from Dad after my return to Plumstead. We started corresponding and the rest is history. We were engaged on my 18th birthday and married one year later. This coming September we will have been married 60 years.”
…and of how Dad’s parents met:
“My parents met in Gorleston, when Mum was nanny to a little girl in London, and her parents took them all to Gorleston for a long holiday. Mum used to go to Dad's stall on his smallholding to buy vegetables. (Dad and brother Horace ran the smallholding together to start with, after the end of WW1, then his brother quit. I think he went back into the Royal Navy).”
…and of how Mum’s parents met:
“Mum's parents meeting came about because granddad's sister Olive worked with Nan in a printing works, and Olive introduced Nan to her brother Fred, i.e. granddad. (Sort of a blind date, perhaps?).” At the time I was born, we lived at 16 Cardiff Street, Plumstead, London, with my grandparents, Mum’s parents Margery Joyce (nee Vickery), and Frederick Rivers. I would live again at Cardiff Street in my 20’s, but that is further in the story. I don’t remember much about the early days at Plumstead, just glimpses of memories. Nan’s garden, with lovingly-tended rosebushes, a patch of lawn, the old Anderson bomb shelter at the bottom of the garden. Nan’s favourite phrases, ie. “I look like the Wreck of the Hesperus!” (bad hair day), “Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire” (up the stairs to bed), “Dark night, stormy night, Bogey won’t come out tonight” (trying to scare us). Granddad’s allotment, watching him mend watches (no pun intended!), the outside loo, Nan’s budgie du jour (not a dish to eat!), the vast spaces of Plumstead and Woolwich Commons, the playground near the ‘Slade’, Woolwich Market, a vague memory of going on the old Woolwich Ferry, and the memories of a loving and close family.
My other set of grandparents, Dad’s parents, Ethel (nee Spurden), and Frederick Cann, lived in Bury St. Edmunds, Norfolk, though they later moved to Great Moulton. My great-grandfather, also Frederick, had been a Police Inspector in the Norfolk Constabulary. We also went up to see them regularly. I remember my grandfather as being a rather quiet man, who loved to stand and ponder his garden, and my grandmother was petite and wanted me to act like a lady (I was more of a tomboy in my childhood). ‘Little’ Nan also loved cats, and was interested in genealogy, photography, and the supernatural, so I inherited her small hands and feet, and was also interested in following the family tree, and the supernatural – and of course I have loved cats since I was a baby.
A year and two weeks later, my brother, Robert Michael, was born at home. He cried so much that first night that my father put him in the bathroom – the midwife was horrified when she arrived the next day! But, as my father said, we needed to get some sleep!
One thing I do remember clearly is sitting in my pushchair (stroller) – I recall feeling snug and secure under the blankets and raincover – Bob and I also traveled in a twin pram, which led to some antics. There is a photo of us together, with either Bob or I chewing on the end of a loaf of bread! Mum recalls that one of us (well, I was the oldest!) pilfered a fish one day from a market stall (it found its way home with us), and another time Mum had bought éclairs, which I fed to Bob!
In June 1956, we moved to Woodley, near Reading, in Berkshire, and our address was 23 Selcourt Close. My first memory is of sitting in front of a tall green cupboard – I must have been about 3 or 4 years old at the time.
Our neighbours were Robert and Muriel Koomen, and their sons Philip and Raymond, and the Rees family. I don’t have too many memories of that time – playing in the neighbourhood, a huge bonfire on Guy Fawkes Day, the Convent School I attended briefly.
I recall also trips back up to Plumstead to see Nan and Granddad, going through the Blackwall Tunnel at night and stopping to use the public lavatories – somehow exciting to a youngster going through the turnstile! Our Aunt Rene, (Irene) married Gordon Smith in 1956. I believe I was a rather bewildered flower girl at their wedding. There were also holidays; I remember going to Mylor Creek in Devon, and fishing (or pretending to), off a boat. Another holiday to Cornwall, where I contracted rheumatic fever and was quite ill, which required an unscheduled return home.
We were to keep in touch with the Koomens for quite some time, until Muriel died. A friend and I stayed with Muriel at her house in Henley-on-Thames, while on holiday in 1977. Years later, in 2008, I was able to contact Nigel Rees (who was a baby when we lived next door to each other), through the Friends Reunited website and Facebook, and catch up on their family news.
In 1960, we emigrated to Australia. We flew out there on B.O.A.C, which in those days of propeller aircraft, took 3 days. We stopped in various places, including Athens (hot, and white buildings, vivid blue sky), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) – natives in sarongs, lizards on the walls in the airport, snakes being charmed. The plane arrived in Melbourne, and we apparently caught a ferry to Launceston in Tasmania, and then a train to Hobart. Unfortunately, I have no memory whatsoever of that part of our journey. In Hobart, my parents had rented a house called “Knocklofty”, which sat on a hill overlooking the city. It was a large, cold house, with a big garden surrounded by a stone wall, along which slithered what seemed like dozens of snails leaving silvery trails of slime everywhere. On the pavement outside were iron railings and I quickly discovered a liking for swinging over and around them like a gymnast. I don’t remember going to school in Hobart, but I do recall the mobile library van that came around. I’ve always loved books and reading, so was always thrilled to be able to borrow another book, and it was probably here that I discovered the books by Nan Chauncy.
After a while, we moved to New Norfolk in the lovely Derwent Valley, and 11 Second Avenue. Dad had a job as a draughtsman at the Australian Newsprint Mills in Boyer. Bob and I quickly settled into our new life, as did Mum, who became a Group Captain for the New Norfolk Girl Guides. We went to school, made friends – Lorraine Jones and her family (I made contact with Lorraine in 2008 through Friends Reunited), the Boyer family, Gwen and Cecil, Ian and Elizabeth - their children were our peers, and the Boyers could not have been more hospitable to us, and we spent a lot of time outdoors. Gwen was also in the Guides. Bob and I went horse riding most weekends at Home Farm up in the hills, and were taught by 16-year old Gloria Blackwell, who was great to be around and taught us a lot. With her we went on overnight camping trips into the bush and I had my first – and only – taste of kangaroo meat! I vividly recall one such camping trip, with Gloria, Bob and I, in a small tent, when the fellow who was our guide, came in and threw a dead mouse at us! Oh, the shrieks! Another time we went with her to a horse sale and I remember her jumping into the ring to remonstrate with some men who were mistreating a horse – she did not tolerate cruelty to animals, and years later I recalled that moment when I had occasion to speak sharply to a man being rough with a donkey, while we were on holiday in Spain.
With Mum and Dad we traveled around Tasmania, going on cook-outs, camping trips, holidays. We visited Mount Wellington, Cradle Mountain National Park, Field National Park, Cadbury Bay, our favourite spot Bicheno. Along the way, we acquired Nicky, an Australian Terrier, Corgi cross, she came to us as a puppy, and gave us years of love and happiness – we ended up taking her back with us to England and then out to Canada – but that is for later. There were also cats galore, as we had a wild female cat living in the garden who was always pregnant (or so it seemed), and kittens were always around. There is a photo of Bob and I cuddling kittens, which appeared in the New Norfolk paper. Those were not the days of regular spaying/neutering of dogs and cats, and we could not have got hold of her even if we had tried.
We always retained a bond with Tasmania and Australia, even though we had lived there for such a short time. In 1962, we returned to England, this time travelling by the ship ‘Castel Felice’ of the Sitmar Line. The journey took six weeks altogether. We sailed from Sydney via the Great Barrier Reef, by convoy through the Suez Canal to Naples, Italy, and then on to Southampton where our family awaited us for an emotional homecoming. Life on board for us children was a blur of swimming, sunning, exercising our dog Nicky, and occasional trips ashore. I remember little of the meals or day-to-day routine – obviously it was just one big adventure for us kids! The only event I do recall was ‘crossing the equator’ and a costume contest – I went as ‘Miss England’ in a swimsuit and banner, and Bob was a ‘native’ with boot polish on his face! I also remember collecting various dolls in native costume, at the ports we moored in – I still have some of them.
When we arrived back in England, our dog Nicky had to go into quarantine for six months due to the rabies regulations. She was kenneled in Abingdon, and we used to travel down to see her frequently – fortunately, she was a young dog and was healthy, though she must have been bewildered at her confinement.
Mum and Dad rented a house in Crowthorne, near Bracknell, Berkshire. The house was actually a 500 year-old cottage, then named the Blacksmith’s Cottage, and I think it had once been part of a manor estate – I’m not sure but I believe the manor was still there at the time. There was quite a big garden with the cottage, and some outbuildings as well, great places for adventures and playing hide-and-seek. The cottage itself was two levels, with low, sloping ceilings, uneven floors, but utterly charming. Mum had to cook on a big Aga oven in the kitchen, which took a bit of getting used to. The school we went to was right next door to us, St. Michael’s Primary School. We soon made friends, in particular Pauline Clark, (later Colville) who lived at 102 Rectory Lane – we remained friends for years afterwards, even when we both lived in other countries. The good thing about being next door to the school was that it wasn’t very far to walk and we could come home for lunch sometimes. I’m afraid I played ‘hookey’ a few times too – until found out. We also had school lunches – I still remember ‘spotted dick’ and ‘spam fritters’!
Further up the road were wheat fields (now housing subdivisions), and we used to play hide-and-seek there. Also, we went with the school to the church of St. Michael’s, walking along a country path to get there – the area was quite open at the time. One day, while sitting bored through another service, I discovered there was a crack in the floor and persuaded Bob and some friends to try and find out what was underneath. To do this, we came back another day, found a door open from the outside, and crept in. However, it was rather spooky, so we left rather hurriedly, imagining ourselves to perhaps be in the crypt! I must have read too many ‘Famous Five’ books by Enid Blyton!
There was horse riding in Bracknell as well; both Bob and I went to a riding school nearby. For a while, I rode a grey ex-racehorse named Joey, later on a pony called Peggy. I enjoyed our long rides through the nearby woods, and glorious gallops.
Of course, we were also able to visit with both sets of grandparents again. ‘Little’ Nan and Granddad were living at ‘Westcot’, a cottage on the farm of Uncle Dick and Aunt Dolly – who was Granddad’s sister, Dorothy. Bob and I spent a summer holiday there, and enjoyed exploring the nearby countryside, going on trips to Norwich, helping to feed the pigs, and playing in the haystack.
In 1964 we emigrated again, this time to British Columbia, Canada. Dad went first, to set up a home for us at 981 Herbert Road, Richmond, and take up his new job with Wright Engineers Ltd. in Vancouver. Mum, Bob and I arrived in October that year, via Toronto, where I remember a great snowy flat expanse. I remember that Dad had put the cartoon pages of the local newspaper in our bedroom chest of drawers, as a welcome for us.
But it was a great culture shock for us, everything seemed so utterly different, and school was especially difficult for me. Our house was located right across the lane from John T. Errington Elementary School, which was handy in the mornings! In England, I would have gone on to take my Eleven-Plus exam, but now Bob and I found ourselves in Grade 6, which seemed a bit juvenile to me. I remember a project we had to do involving a large map of the UK, and we were asked to place the names of certain British cities in the appropriate place on the map. Our teacher was very disappointed that Bob and I got most of the cities wrong (except for London); he did not understand that just because England is a small country, it does not mean that one has been to all those cities and knows exactly where they are!
Anyway, we gradually made friends with the local children and enjoyed cycling around Richmond. We also experienced our first Halloween and trick-or-treating – the following year we were deemed too old to participate. One year I organized a Jumble Sale at our school, and Bob and I sold tickets to anyone who would buy one. We had a fish pond (wading pool) where you “fished” for gifts, a white elephant table, refreshments etc., and I donated the proceeds to the Save the Children Fund – it was great fun.
Mum & Dad made friends with the people next door – Bob Davies, who was in the RCMP, his wife and their daughter Cathy, who used to babysit for us sometimes (until we made a fuss that we were old enough to be left by ourselves). Also, Jean & Daryl Burley and Aunt May, who lived across the street. We spent our first Christmas Day with them, and endured the strange custom of everyone sitting around in a circle while the Christmas gifts were opened one at a time, and passed along the line for admiration. That Christmas of 1964 was a harsh one indeed. We had been told that it hardly ever snowed in Vancouver, but we ended up having the worst winter in 50 years! It snowed and snowed. We enjoyed it nevertheless, with trips up Mount Seymour and sledding, making snowmen, decorating the house and, no doubt, days off school!
In August 1965, Bob and I spent a couple of weeks at ‘Webb’s Holiday Acres’, a summer ranch for children, located in Aldergrove. It is the North American tradition for kids to go away to camp in the summer, to give their parents a rest(!). However, Bob and I did not like it much, despite the activities offered – horseback riding, swimming, etc. I guess we were more used to going on holiday with Mum and Dad. So, they found us a Dutch family to stay with, who ran a farm in Aldergrove, near Zero Avenue – I cannot recall their name, but they were so friendly and made us feel right at home. We ran around with their kids and a couple of other kids who were also spending their summer ‘hols’ there. I remember going up in the attic and being swarmed by bats, playing in the barn, visiting friends nearby who had horses that we could ride. Also, this family took us along when they drove up to Smithers to visit family. We hunted for fossils in Telkwa, and had a scary episode near Barkerville when the car we were in, was parked near a cliff, and suddenly rolled forward when the farmer and his wife were outside admiring the view. I guess the handbrake had disengaged, but that was a close call! We came home from the farm with a rooster, which lived on our front lawn until the neighbours complained of too many early wakeup calls, so Dad took him off to another home (or so we were told)! Later on, the Dutch family moved to Smithers, so we lost touch with them.
Life continued until 1966, when my grandfather (on Mum’s side) died suddenly of a heart attack, at the age of 59. Since I was then not doing very well in school and was, in fact, not attending, it was decided that Mum and I would return to England for granddad’s funeral. It was a very unhappy time for everyone. When Mum went back to Canada, I stayed behind with Nan, at Cardiff Street. Obviously, I wasn’t going to school so spent my days helping Nan around the house, and visiting friends and family. I do remember going to the library and reading a lot of books, and enjoying long walks exploring around Plumstead and across Woolwich Common. I believe it was around this time that I made friends with Elaine Callow (now Greasley), whose mother and grandmother worked at the bakery on the “Slade”, where there was a row of shops. Elaine and I shared a love of horses, and hit it off right away. We remained friends throughout our lives.
After I returned to Canada in 1967, I was enrolled in a girls’ private school called Queen’s Hall, which was located in Vancouver. The headmistress was a very stern, elderly Scotswoman called Miss Bodie, who ruled the school with an iron fist! This was the era of the hippies and flower power, but we had to wear school uniform – kilt, white blouse, tie, knee socks, beret, jacket and saddle shoes! It all felt a bit archaic to me, and many of the girls rebelled – we rolled our skirts up so the hems were at least over our knees, and took off our berets and ties as soon as we were outside school – even though we got demerit points against us if caught! I do remember that the entire Grade 12 class was expelled one year after they were caught smoking marijuana on school property!
During this time, I discovered a love of languages, and enjoyed taking English, French and Latin classes – winning prizes for the last two – now I can’t speak a word of French, but can understand some of it. My favourite subjects were always English (spelling, literature, creative writing), and Art – I put a collage of photographs etc., on my bedroom wall. I also remember one of the teachers did a project on European capitals, and we had to write essays. I wrote about London (of course), but was mightily baffled when I was marked lower for not calling “Covent Garden” “Convent Garden”! One wonders just who should have been the teacher sometimes! I argued my point and lost.
In 1969 I switched schools, and entered Grade 10 at Mary Hill Junior Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, and from there, to Port Coquitlam Senior Secondary School (now Terry Fox Secondary), graduating in 1972.
While we lived in “PoCo”, we made friends with Bill DeTemple and his family, who lived at the bottom of Pitt River Road – that area has now been transformed into the Mary Hill Bypass, but at that time it was mostly farms and smallholdings. We still keep in touch with Bill, or William, he now lives in Florida. We also adopted two abandoned kittens, found one day while out walking. They were brother and sister, the former black and white and possibly part-Siamese, and the latter black and fluffy – we named them Sooty and Fluffer, and they were known as “the Bobbsey Twins”. Sooty became my cat and I was very fond of him, and heartbroken when he was killed on the road outside. Fluffer was distraught, and shortly afterward she went missing and we never knew what happened to her – one of the hard things about loving and “owning” cats.
During our school days, we went on many happy summer holidays with Mum and Dad. Sometimes, our two Nans came out to join us – not at the same time, of course. We camped in the BC Interior, almost getting washed away in sudden summer storms, drove down the Oregon Coast to California, camped again in Yosemite National Park, where it snowed in August! Visited so many interesting and beautiful places – Jackson, Wyoming, Grand Tetons, Salt Lake City, Carmel, San Francisco, Old Faithful Geyser, Barkerville, Shuswap Lake. I remember one very hot day when we were camping at Wasa Lake, and we persuaded Nan to change into a pair of shorts – we snapped her photo as she emerged from the trailer!
After graduation in 1972, I went to England on a working holiday. One of the conditions of my going was that I live with Nan Rivers in Cardiff Street. Of course, it being the early seventies I perhaps would have preferred to live in a bed-sit, but looking back, I am glad I had the chance to spend some time with Nan.
I started applying for jobs and was accepted at the Midland Bank. What was I thinking, wanting to work for a bank! Math was my “bete noire” or curse, in school! One morning I caught the train from Plumstead Station and went for my training course in Holborn Street. Nan and I had gone up to London beforehand and thought we had found the right address – alas, when I knocked on the door I was informed I was at the wrong bank and had to make a mad dash down the street to the right address! Somehow or other, I passed the course and was assigned to the Aldgate branch near the Tower of London, as a receptionist. However, I quickly found that working in a bank was not really my forte. Mr. Earl, the Assistant Manager, had a habit of waiting until I beeped his phone to take a call, and then getting up and walking away – this was because I did not like him and made it plain I was not interested in his advances. I did enjoy exploring the surrounding historic area, on my lunch hour. Shortly after, I was transferred to the Southwark branch, near George Inn, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, inns in London. I remember we had to walk down the alley beside the bank, and enter through the “tradesman’s entrance”. I thought this practice was archaic and right out of a Dickens book.
During this time, my friend Pauline came on holiday from New Zealand and she stayed with me at Cardiff Street. However, the visit was cut short when my other grandfather, Frederick Cann, died on 29 February 1973 – he had been in a nursing home suffering from emphysema. Dad came over for the funeral and I met him in London. Also, at some point in 1972/3, my brother Bob came over for a holiday and we went on a riverboat cruise for a week, in Warwickshire I believe. We traveled by train up to Leamington Spa, had to wait 4 hours for a local bus, which delivered us and our suitcases on a country road; we then had to walk rather a long way to the boat company. I was not at ease around boats usually, and true to form, fell in the water up to my waist, while transporting myself across one barge to ours. Since it was raining (and rained most of the week), I had a terrible job getting dry again. It was a memorable trip for several reasons. The countryside was lovely, even in the pouring rain, but at one small village (name forgotten), there was an awful thunderstorm that lasted 4 hours. Bob and I had walked into the village to try and buy provisions, and got caught in this storm. The raindrops bounced up to our knees, and the lightning was frightening. We tried to shelter in doorways, which didn’t help. The water level in the canal rose quite a bit, and we thought we wouldn’t be able to get under the archway of the bridge when we left. I’m afraid Bob probably lost a bit of weight on that trip, as he did most of the steering, mooring etc., and also due to my nearly non-existent cooking skills! I did help him maneuver through the locks, at one point almost ending up in the drink myself when the current caught the boat and the rope slipped through my fingers – I let go in the end, screaming so loud some people came to my rescue – fortunately Bob managed to get control. Bob later painted two pictures of our trip, from photographs.
I left the Midland Bank after a few unsatisfactory months (I got fed up counting elastic bands!), and started working at many other temporary jobs, assigned to me from the Brooke Street Bureau, a well-known temp agency. One stint was at the Midland Bank in a typing pool – it was a very posh branch with a doorman, and I distinctly remember being informed by him that I was to use the “tradesman’s entrance” when I arrived the following day! I also vividly recall that day as I was wearing new shoes and had a nasty blister on my heel by the time I arrived at the bank. One day on my lunch hour, I was walking along the street and almost bumped into Mr. Earl – I felt like telling him exactly what I thought of him, but decided against it! Another assignment involved typing for the Greenwich Council – I was set up in a broom closet! I had to type game schedules on Gestetner paper, which were then run off on a Gestetner machine, the forerunner of the Xerox. This was my first experience at typing charts and tables, so it was good practice but hard work! I also worked at a stockbroker’s in London, where if they had a good day on the exchange, crates of champagne were brought in! I also remember working at a collection agency, and a goods yard in Bermondsey, and being asked to make the coffee and water the plants – all this put me in good stead for my first permanent job in Canada.
In 1973 I returned to Canada, and moved in with Mum & Dad at their new home at 4647 West 15th Avenue, Vancouver, near The University of British Columbia, where Bob had started studying for a geology degree. I began going for job interviews, and in January 1974, acquired a junior office job at The Canadian Airline Flight Attendant’s Association (CALFAA), at their office on West Broadway in Vancouver. My salary was $400 a month, which seemed a lot to me at the time! Thus began one of my most interesting jobs. I started as membership secretary, and since this was well before the time of computers and word processors, I was in charge of a machine which used metal plates to stamp the member’s name and address on. There were 4,500 members then, and I had to update these plates with new addresses, add new members, and run the whole lot through the same machine when newsletters were mailed out. I was also responsible for the mailroom, taking bags of mail to the post office, going on errands, making coffee, watering plants. It doesn’t sound like much, but the job gave me a lot of variety, challenge, and experience, and I made some good friends working there (Olga Nunn in particular; we stayed friends until her death). Later on, I was promoted to Secretary, then Benefits Administrator, responsible for the union’s disability benefits section, and also helped with the union’s newspaper, “Unity”, liaising between the printer, French translator, and editor (my boss). By then, I was well-rounded in all aspects of the union (this sounds a bit like a resume…), and had gone through a division in the politics of the association, which resulted in a major upheaval in the staff and much cloak and dagger stuff – fortunately I had stayed neutral and still had a job at the end of it!
Also, in 1974, I asked Mum & Dad if I could have a kitten, so one day Mum and I went down to a pet shop on Broadway and asked if they had any kittens. The owner led us over to a cage wherein there was a heap of fur, which, when disentangled, turned out to be a litter of kittens, all female except for the runt at the bottom, who was a male. So, Blackie came home with us and entered and enriched our lives. He was such an inquisitive, loving feline, supposed to be my cat, but was first and foremost a family cat, then ended up living with Mum & Dad when I moved to my own place. He loved to be held, carried around upside down in someone’s arms, played, went on walks with Nicky.
My uncle Jim (James Cann, who had emigrated to Montreal in 1967), came to live with us during this time, and soon became one of Blackie’s minions. One day, Jim walked down to the bus stop on West 10th Ave., turned around when he got there and found Blackie by his side – he had trotted the entire five blocks to be with Jim! Poor Jim had to then pick Blackie up and take him home again. Blackie had many adventures, including going missing for 3 weeks when he was 16 years old, but he lived to be 18.
Also, in the early 1970’s, I became intrigued and concerned about the plight of wild horses in BC, and joined the Canadian Wild Horse Society, founded by Norma Bearcroft, who lived in Richmond at that time. Later on, I became a Director of the Society, and good friends with Norma, volunteering with the Society, helping out at meetings, and often visited Norma both in Richmond and after she moved to Salmon Arm.
Other volunteer work included membership with the Citizens’ Pet Population Society, and a stint as a Literacy Tutor with the Vancouver Volunteer Bureau.
In 1975, I acquired my first car, a brand-new blue Honda Civic. It was a great incentive to get my driving licence! I was so proud of that car, and loved driving it, it gave me a lot of freedom – Bob and I traveled in it around BC in May of that year, going from Port Hardy on the ferry to Prince Rupert, down to Smithers, taking in Hazelton, Fort Steele, Sandon, Barkerville, the old abandoned town of Quesnelle Forks, and up the very scary backroad at Hedley to the old mine.
I also flew to Christchurch, New Zealand in February 1975, to attend my friend Pauline’s wedding to Gary Colville. It was a fantastic trip and very memorable. I went on holiday with Pauline’s mum and dad, and her aunt, to Hanmer, across on the west coast. Thought New Zealand was a great place, but a wee bit behind the times compared to Vancouver. But this contributed to its charm. When the earthquake of 2011 hit the city of Christchurch, and surrounding areas, I was very upset for the residents.
In 1976, I went on a cruise with Mum & Dad (it was their 25th wedding anniversary). We flew to Malaga, Spain, stayed a couple of days in a hotel, visiting Granada and the Alhambra, then boarded the ship ‘Delphi’. I shared a cabin with a lady called Doris. I remember the stewards used to fold our night dresses into intricate flower shapes and leave them on our pillow – no doubt looking for a good tip at the end of the cruise! Doris turned out to have a heart condition, so when the air conditioning broke, the ship’s doctor moved her to sick bay and I went along as well, so we were the only people on board who were fairly comfortable! The showers also went kaput one day. But, the service and food was good, and ports of call very interesting – Tangier, Monaco, Naples, Pompeii, Sardinia, the catacombs (brr..creepy). I missed the tour of Rome as everyone on board came down with the ‘flu, and I felt very ill that day.
Around 1977 I bought my first apartment, on West 4th Ave, near Dunbar. I can’t remember how much I paid, maybe around $80,000, but the economy must have been bad that year as the vendor could not sell all the apartments and decided to turn the unsold units into rentals, offering to buy back any apartments that had already been sold. Ah, if only we had a crystal ball to consult! I sold my apartment as I didn’t want to live in a rental building – and now that apartment would be worth a fortune!
In 1977 I went to England on holiday, and stayed with Nan Rivers, also going to see Rene, Gordon, and my cousins Peter and Alan. Rene and I went on a coach tour around western England and Wales. I don't remember where we started from, but some of the highlights included a night at the stately Malvern Hills Hotel, and visits to the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Llandudno, Caernarvon, and that Welsh town with the very long name - Llan__something! Rene found she was about the only Brit on the coach, apart from myself (Canadian/English). Everyone else was from somewhere overseas, but we all got along, and our guide Marigold, was one of the best.
In 1978, for a change of pace, I went to England again on holiday with Lilian, sister to one of Mum’s work colleagues. We booked one of those “If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium” European tours, 6 countries in as many days. We stayed in a guest house in London for a week – on the first night I was woken by someone banging on the front door, impossible to ignore, looked out the window and it was a couple who had arrived extremely late due to an air traffic controller’s strike, so I went down and knocked on the manager’s door to let him know – he was not amused but I felt sorry for the couple. My aunt Rene and Nan Rivers came up one afternoon and we went to a play, then to dinner at ‘The Carvery’. Lilian and I also went down to stay a few days with Muriel Koomen at her river-side house at Henley-on-Thames. Then, on the morning we went on our Europe tour, our alarm clock failed to go off, and the first thing we knew, the taxi was blaring it’s horn outside, and we had 15 minutes to get up, dressed and out the door! We went from Dover across to Calais on a hovercraft, then hopped on a coach, and set off for Paris. We were in the midst of our city tour when I became very ill and had to catch a taxi back to the hotel – I didn’t know it at the time but was suffering from kidney stones, which were not diagnosed until 1983. So missed another world city, but enjoyed visiting Amsterdam, Lucerne, Salzburg (site of filming for ‘Sound of Music’), Vienna, and Bonn.
In 1978, Mum and Dad moved temporarily to Sydney, Australia, as Dad’s company, Wright Engineer’s Ltd., was working on the Jabiru uranium mine there. I moved out of my rented apartment in Kitsilano and into their house for the duration. I had a roommate to help with the rent – she was the niece of my former boss at CALFAA, but unfortunately the arrangement did not work out well and she moved out, leaving me with bills owing.
In 1979, I went out to have a holiday with Mum & Dad and loved it so much I decided to quit my job and join them to have a ‘working holiday’. Mum came back to Vancouver and we found someone to rent their house while we were away (a professor from UBC and his family), and put the furniture into storage. Blackie and Sacha (my cat) went to stay with Norma Bearcroft in Salmon Arm. Apparently, they had a lovely time there and we loved the story of Blackie catching a mouse one day, and Norma observing him and his mouse encircled by Norma’s cats, until Blackie decided to eat it – some sort of cat initiation rite I guess!
Mum and Dad were renting a house in Belrose, on the North Shore of Sydney, New South Wales. Although technically I was supposed to be working “temp”, I still found a lot of time to sightsee around Sydney, and travel to other places in Australia, such as Canberra, Forster, the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, etc. I remember the bush fire that came perilously close one year, with ash dropping in the back yard, and Mum unable to get home from her volunteer job at a nursing home in Manly.
In early 1980, Bob came over for a visit, and the whole family went on a boat trip up the Hawkesbury River, in Kuringai National Park, which was memorable, not only for the beautiful scenery, but for our usual Cann habit of forgetting at least five things before we left the house, and having to return for them! Bob and I also took a trip to Alice Springs, in the heart of Australia, and a long, dusty, hot coach trip to Ayers Rock (Uluru). At that time, there were no resorts there, only a budget motel, and the coach was not air-conditioned, extremely uncomfortable in the 50 degrees Celsius in the shade, temperature! We drank a lot of beer and other beverages! On arrival at Uluru, the coach driver drove us around part of the base of the Rock, to see the area where plaques on the rock face memorialized the unfortunate people who had been killed while attempting the climb – he emphasized the point that if we did not feel fit enough to make the climb, then we shouldn’t – so I didn’t! Another girl and I stayed in the bus and watched the others ascend, including Bob. When they all returned, they were exhausted, so I was very glad I had not tried to climb! One day, Bob and I rented a dune buggy and drove out of Alice Springs to explore a bit further. We visited the flying doctor station, and another historical site – I quickly became familiar with the ‘Australian Salute”, ie. flapping your hand in front of your face to ward off the flies which were everywhere!
Bob and I also took a trip back in time, to Tasmania, flying to Launceston and picking up a Volkswagen Campervan for a fly/drive holiday. We motored across through the Huon Valley, to Bicheno, and then to New Norfolk, where we stayed with the Boyers for a few days, then Ian Boyer joined us, and we drove to the west coast, Stanley, and up the Gordon River, which was largely unexplored at that time and looked very primordial in places – again a memorable visit.
Sometime in 1980, I went over to spend a month in New Zealand with my friends Pauline and Gary Colville, who were living in a small house in Oamaru on the South Island. After a couple of weeks exploring that area, I decided to rent a car and do some further exploring. Pauline and I went to a car rental place in Oamaru and I booked a car, asking for an automatic transmission – we were supposed to pick it up in Dunedin. However, when we arrived at the car place there, they had no record of our rental. It seemed that because Pauline, at the time, looked so young, and stood just under 5 feet – and I guess I looked young at the time, too – the guys in the rental office thought we were joking, and so did not make any booking for us! However, things were eventually sorted out, and a brand new Cortina automatic was delivered to us the following day at the cabin we were staying in. We had a lovely time exploring that part of the South Island, making our way to Mount Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown. Unfortunately, on the second-to-last day, those kidney stones reared their ugly head again, and I had a not very good drive back to Oamaru. Gary had to deliver the car to the rental place as I was stuck in bed for a few days.
In October 1980, we left Sydney and flew back to Vancouver, stopping along the way in Auckland, New Zealand, where I was able to meet up again with Pauline & Gary, and their new baby Adele. We saw a bit of the North Island, including Rotorua, and then flew on to Fiji, staying in a hotel in Nadi for a few days, then transferred to an island where we stayed in separate “bures”, or traditional cabins, with a main lodge where we had our meals. We found the native Fijians very friendly, but not the native fauna, consisting of extremely large spiders which often made an appearance on the walls at night!
At one point during our stay, we experienced the edge of a hurricane sweeping by. No boats were allowed out, and the waves were incredibly high, plus the wind and rain lashed our little island all day long – we stayed inside the lodge and played board games to pass the time, while sampling the local cuisine.
From Fiji we flew to Los Angeles, staying in Anaheim and visiting Disneyland for a day, which was great. Then, home to Vancouver – I had so enjoyed my 14 months in the Southern Hemisphere, but was also happy to return to the mountains and beautiful scenery of BC. I was also thrilled to get my little Honda Civic back from Jim & Judy (Jim had married in 1978), who had been looking after it for me. We also collected Blackie and Sacha from Norma’s place in Salmon Arm – fortunately, they remembered us, and were glad to see us again, though I think they thoroughly enjoyed their sojourn in the country.
Fortunately, I got another job almost immediately, as Clerk Typist for the Labour Relations Board of B.C. I stayed only six months though, before moving on to a better position in 1981, as Word Processor Operator at BC Research, located on the UBC Campus.
I was still living with Mum & Dad, but moved out to my own (rental) apartment shortly thereafter, on West 6th Ave in Kitsilano, with Sacha. Poor Sacha, we think he had brain damage or something, as he was apt to attack on hearing loud noises or smelling perfume. Many friends and family ended up with bloody scratches. But he did clean out a nest of spiders for me in another apartment – he used to walk around with legs dangling out of his mouth – yuk!
In 1982, Nan Rivers flew over to Canada, and she and I went on a coach tour to Disneyland in California. We stayed in motels along the way, including Sacramento, which was memorable because there was a Chinese family on the bus who invited Nan and I, and some other people, to a Chinese restaurant for a meal. We ended up with a feast of sorts, and I had Nan trying all sorts of different food – mind you, she didn’t always know what she was eating! We had sharkfin soup (I would not eat it now knowing how it is harvested), calamari, and lots of tasty dishes – and the Chinese family would not let us pay for anything. Disneyland was great, and Nan and I really enjoyed our special time together.
During that vacation, Sacha disappeared from Mum & Dad’s house on West 15th (they were looking after him), and again, we never found out what happened to him – it was very disturbing. I did not have another black and white cat until the year 2011!
In 1984, Mum and Dad were living at 6075 Eagleridge Drive, West Vancouver, when two of Mum’s cousins, Dot and Joy, came over from England for a holiday, and stayed with Mum and Dad. On an impulse, I offered to take Dot and Joy on a driving tour of BC. The moral of the story is, don’t offer to do anything for anybody unless you know what is involved – and you actually get along with the people. This applies to mostly everything in life, although we can’t always choose. However, we did see a lot of the province, including the Fraser Canyon, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Johnston’s Canyon, Banff, Cranbrook, Fort Steele, Salmo, and Cultus Lake.
In March 1985, Mum and I flew to England for a short holiday. Unfortunately, the airline on which we were due to fly out, went bankrupt the day before our flight, so we had to be booked on another airline (better as it turned out). We stayed with Rene, and I remember it was a bitterly cold March and I had to borrow a winter jacket, as my raincoat was not warm enough. We visited Leeds Castle, and a silk factory near London – it was a memorable vacation. I also recall I was wearing braces on my teeth at the time, having belatedly decided to try and straighten my front teeth! Just a wee bit awkward being an adult with braces!
In July 1985, my friend Millicent Alexander (sister to Flora who used to live next door to us on West 15th Ave), and I, went for a short stay, to my friend Norma’s, in Salmon Arm. One day, Norma drove us to the Duchess Dairy in Sicamous, where they had a sort of road-side zoo, and good ice cream. We felt sorry for the zoo animals in their small cages, and sorry for the abandoned cats and kittens, which were hanging around the picnic tables. I saw a scrawny little orange kitten scrounging around, and picked him up. He was so thin I could feel all his innards, and he sat on my lap finishing off my pistachio ice cream and cone. I did not want to leave him there to an uncertain fate, so ended up bringing him back with me to Vancouver. He stayed with Millicent for two weeks, and Mum & Dad six weeks, until I could move from my strictly no-pets apartment to a basement suite in a house at 3449 Mayfair Ave, off Dunbar Street. Thus dear Tuffy entered our lives. He was such an independent little cat, always getting into scrapes with neighbourhood cats – I felt like wearing a disguise every time I had to take him to the vet! One time he had an abscess right on top of his head, with a draining tube stuck in it – he looked like a lab rat! I was supposed to keep him inside, which was useless, he was definitely an outdoors cat and fretted something awful if confined. He soon made himself known to the neighbours, making friends with their dog, Buck, sort of a cross between a basset hound and a Labrador – he and Tuffy used to sit on the back step together, with Tuffy rubbing his head around Buck’s neck. Tuff also befriended Levi, a deaf white cat who lived with his owner in the basement suite next door. One day I came home from work to a frantic little crowd searching for Levi, who had been missing all day – entering my suite I found Levi on top of the fridge – I guess Tuffy had enticed him in to play! Of course, Levi being deaf, he had not heard anyone call him. Often, I would hear the neighbours call “Tuffy!” and knew he was in trouble again – either swinging from their clothesline trying to get to the bird feeder, stuck on a roof, or being somewhere else he wasn’t expected to be!
I loved my new position as WP Operator at BC Research. We were using Wang word processors, which I found easy to use, and the range of typing was challenging. There was a typing pool at the time, with a Supervisor, and 5 operators. We were responsible for typing reports and other documents (including lots of charts), for several departments, including Chemical, Engineering, Biology, Aquaculture. Gradually, as the supervisor left and was not replaced, we dwindled down to 3 operators, with me being the Senior WP Operator in charge of the word processing department, and responsible for seeing that the work was done on time, and also troubleshooting the word processor machines in our pool, and also the various divisions – it was quite challenging, but I really enjoyed it. I made good friends with Angela Wong, who was a library technician, and Lauren Glen, another WP Operator, and remained friends after we had all moved on to other ventures. Eventually, word processors began to be replaced by computers, which could do more applications, and our Wangs gave way to IBMs. The writing was on the wall that the WP Dept would be disbanded, and I wondered what was in store for me. I had worked at BC Research for almost seven years, and thought it was time to move on again.
In 1986, I went on holiday to Madrid, Spain. Dad had once again been transferred due to his job, and Mum & Dad were living there in the top part of a house, with Julie, their little Yorkshire Terrier. I really enjoyed my vacation, especially the visit to Segovia and the mountains, where I felt very comfortable and “at home”. We also visited Franco’s Tomb, carved out of a mountainside, El Escorial, Toledo, and the Prado Art Gallery in Madrid.
In 1987, I resigned from BC Research, and started work almost immediately at the International North Pacific Fisheries Commission (INPFC), also situated on the UBC Campus. This was a Secretariat with three member countries, Canada, USA and Japan. There were five staff members, including me – Director, Assistant Director, Translator, Administrative Assistant, Secretary. I was happy because I was back working on a Wang again! But it was a bit of an eye-opener working with different cultures, ie., the Japanese Asst. Director did not get on with the American Director, that much was evident. I learned something about the Japanese culture, ie. you don’t write Jap on boxes, you write Jpn, otherwise it is considered an insult – oh, dear! Of course, later on there was that restaurant called “Japadog” in downtown Vancouver, so views must have changed considerably since my day! I attended the AGM for 1987, held at the Hotel Vancouver, an event lasting a week, with all of us staying in the hotel, because of the very long hours required every day. I often had to change documents rapidly, with people hovering over me, ready to rip the page from my hand. We also had Greenpeace unfurl a banner from the hotel roof, in protest at the Japanese taking whales for “research” purposes. I got along well with Wakako Morris, the Admin. Assistant, and was able to contact her in 2011 via Facebook – 30 years after we’d worked together!
In 1988, the AGM was to be held in Tokyo, Japan. I had been having lots of problems with kidney stones again, and did not want these problems while overseas. I resigned from my position with INPFC (there were also rumours that the Secretariat might re-form into something else). As it turned out, I ended up travelling to England again for another holiday, and also to celebrate Nan Rivers’ 80th birthday. Mum and Rene planned a party at Nan’s flat on Sandy Hill Road, Plumstead, with all her friends, and later on the family went to a celebration dinner at a pub near Rene’s house. I believe it was this year that we all traveled over to the Channel Islands, staying in a guest house in Jersey for a week. During that trip I was able to visit the Durrell Trust park, and see the endangered species, something I’d long wished to do, having always enjoyed the books by Gerald Durrell.
When I returned, I started doing temp work again, always something for me to fall back on. In 1989 I was hired to work in the Word Processing Pool at the Faculty of Education at UBC. They were using AES word processors, not having made the leap to IBMs. The AES was quite easy to use, except you had to remember to Save each page as you typed it – something I often forgot in the early days! We worked on the 6th floor of the Neville Scarfe Building, and there was a Supervisor and 5 operators. It was actually a bit of a come-down for me and less pay, but the economy wasn’t too good at that time. The work was challenging, typing reports, CVs, exams, correspondence, and my ability to decipher sometimes illegible writing, came in handy! A year or so later, the department started to bring in IBMs and we had the usual growing pains with new computers, and the rumour that the WP Pool would be closing down. So I made an internal transfer to the Dept. of Agriculture, which was a disaster, as the reason the previous secretary had left became clear – a fellow staff member with a penchant for making life miserable for everyone else. I could not transfer back as my position had been taken, so they moved me to another department within Education – the Centre for Curriculum Studies. Alas, the other secretary and I clashed almost immediately, and I ended up leaving UBC altogether in 1991.
In 1989, I decided that Tuffy and I would get a feline companion. So off I went to the Meow-Aid Shelter and two hours later, emerged with a large neutered male tabby cat. He had been given the name of “Gentle Ben”, but I re-named him Timmy. For the first couple of days, he stayed under my bed and only ventured out in the evenings when I got home from work. He had obviously been mistreated at some stage, and flinched when I put my hand down to stroke his head (it took a year before he stopped). Tuffy was not amused to find an interloper in his house and was quite jealous, but gradually they got used to each other. Timmy was a lovely, gentle cat and he was definitely my “baby”. He became used to travelling in the car, along with Tuffy, first to White Rock where Mum & Dad were now living, and later to Vancouver Island where they moved in 1993. He became known as “Nurse Timmy”, because whenever I was ill, he stayed curled up beside me on the bed, or actually wrapped around my head. One time, I had a very bad stomach-ache, and was lying on the sofa. Timmy wanted to lie on my tummy, but I discouraged him. He returned and tried again, and again I pushed him off. On the third attempt, I let him stay, and soon fell asleep. When I woke up later, my stomach-ache was gone – it must have been the warmth from “Nurse Timmy” that did it!
In 1990, I had again ventured into home ownership, and purchased an apartment in Richmond, at #213-8460 Ackroyd Road. It was one-bedroom, 660 square feet, and very comfortable – until the “leaky condo” syndrome reared its ugly head, and we started to have special assessments heaped on us.
When I moved into the apartment, I decided that Tuffy would not be at all happy with us, as it would have meant confinement for him, so he went off to live with Mum & Dad, who were quite happy to have him again. Since I would be out at work all day and I did not want to leave Timmy alone, I went searching for another feline companion in February 1990. I saw an ad in the local paper for a female kitten and made a phone call to ask if they still had her. The answer was “Well, we think we do!” Apparently, the kitten had escaped from their apartment that morning! But, they phoned me back later to say that she had been found in the unit above theirs, having climbed a tree to get there. And so I was introduced to Sambuca, so called because of a grey patch on top of her white head. She was a fluffy white cat, and I had already chosen the name of Panda for her. When I went to the apartment to see her, she promptly climbed into my lap and went to sleep – the woman said “oh, that’s the first time I’ve seen her go to a stranger”. Apparently, they had found her abandoned on Vancouver Island and brought her back with them, but their building did not allow more than one cat. So Panda came home with me, and when I put the cat carrier down in my apartment and opened the door, it was love at first sight for Timmy. He became very paternal towards her, would wash and cuddle her, and they became fast friends. But whereas Timmy was quiet, and never got into trouble, Panda, or “Miss Pandie” was always into mischief! But she was an adorable puss and everyone loved her. Later on, she became very ill with tummy troubles and I took her to vet after vet, despairing of a cure. As a last resort, I took her over to Mum & Dad’s wonderful vets on Vancouver Island, they diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome, and within 24 hours Panda was on the mend.
In August 1990, Mum, Dad and I traveled to Australia on vacation. Mum and Dad exchanged houses – their house in White Rock with their friends’ Pauline and Gwyn Howells’ house in Sydney. So, we spent a week at the house, then a week in Tasmania visiting old friends and haunts (like stepping into a time warp; not much had changed, it seemed to us), and then Mum and Dad went on to spend a week on the Gold Coast, while I returned to Vancouver. It was a great, relaxing holiday.
Just before I left UBC, I had begun to feel rather unwell, with “brain fog”, painful knee and hip joints, and fatigue. I had suffered previously (in 1974), with something similar, which was then diagnosed as some sort of arthritis. I had received treatment from the Arthritis Centre, but despite feeling rather ill sometimes, managed to keep going at work and play. That illness lasted about a year, then I seemed to get better. But this latest illness, in 1991, was much worse, until I was unable to walk without a cane, and had to go and stay with Mum & Dad for three months, spending a month in bed. The doctors were not much help, saying again it was probably arthritis, and prescribing pain medication. Then, Mum’s chiropractor referred us to an allergist in Vancouver. His advice was that I was probably allergic to a lot of food, so I went on an “elimination diet”, starting with a week of nothing but chicken and peas, then gradually adding other foods. I discovered that I was (am) very intolerant to wheat and dairy, and after 24 hours on the diet, I started to feel better. However, it was a good two years before I was back to normal, and able to start serious job-hunting again.
In 1991, Mum and Dad took me on holiday to the Okanagan, as they thought I could do with a vacation after being ill for so long. We stayed in a cabin near Kelowna, and were able to visit various places around the area, like the O’Keefe ranch and the old Mission, plus picnic on Okanagan Lake – it made a lovely rest and change of scenery for me.
In 1992, I felt well enough to go on a driving holiday with my uncle Jim. He drove, and we visited many of our favourite places in BC, including Kelowna, the O’Keefe Ranch, Osoyoos, Nelson, the Kootenay Lakes ferry, Sandon, Kaslo, Radium Hot Springs. It was a great holiday and we both enjoyed the scenery of our beautiful province.
I was also doing some temp jobs again. I sent out a lot of resumes, not really expecting to hear from anyone, but much to my surprise School District #38 (Richmond), called me in one day in March 1994 for an interview for a position as Substitute Secretary. I passed all the tests and was sent on my first assignment that April, and then in June of course, school was out for the summer. But, in September, the assignments started again, and I worked as a sub secretary for just about every elementary and secondary school in Richmond, including Errington, where Bob and I had gone! In 1996 I applied for a permanent position and got it – I was now Secretary for the Learning Services office at Brighouse Elementary, and also Secretary for the Deafblind Outreach Program office at Sidaway Elementary. Both positions were 17.5 hours a week, which gave me a full-time job. I thoroughly enjoyed working for the counselors, speech therapists, psychologists etc., who comprised the department, and also liked the flexibility and autonomy of working between two offices. The office at Sidaway, on No. 5 Road, was in a classroom, overlooking a farm next door which boarded horses. One summer day, I watched as a mare and foal cantered around the corral, and then the foal crashed into the fence, which gave way, and the foal tumbled through and was stranded on the school side. I rushed outside and, with the janitor’s help, encouraged the baby back over to his mother – my excitement (and the students) for the day!
In 1997, provincial government budget cutbacks meant that I lost my permanent job after I was “bumped” out of it by a more senior secretary. I was very upset because I loved my job and the staff – they were not happy to see me go either. So, it was back on the “sub” list again, to await another opportunity, as I was not senior enough to “bump” anyone, and even if I had been, probably wouldn’t have as I did not agree with the process. The following year, 1998, I managed to pick up 17.5 hours as a Clerk-Typist, at the Learning Services Department at the School Board Office on Granville Street, very close to home. Since I was already familiar with the department, I was happy to work for them again, and I was still subbing when I could, to make extra money. Then, in 1999, I picked up another 7.5 hours at Blair Elementary, and later on, 10 hours a week for a contract with the Ministry of Education. Juggling three jobs at once was not easy, but I managed, and enjoyed it, quite well!
I had also started doing some volunteer work on the weekends, at the Langley Therapeutic Equestrian Society. They had a stables and riding arena, and I went out there and helped assist disabled children as they enjoyed riding around the arena and on riding trails. I found it enjoyable being around horses again, but a bit frustrating as sometimes I would drive all the way from Richmond to Langley for a scheduled time, only to find that some teenagers had arrived to help and they did not need me after all! I lasted about six months before I figured my time was better spent elsewhere.
You may have noticed that so far, I have not mentioned any relationships with the opposite sex. Well, I’d had some dates in the past, which never progressed to anything, and one disastrous relationship with someone who turned out to be a stalker – that put me off dating for a long time. However, in March 1999, while surfing the Internet at home, I clicked – on a whim – a banner advertising a dating site called Lovecity.com. While browsing through the selections, I came across one description, along with photos, which intrigued me, so decided to take a chance and sent off an email. So began my correspondence, and ultimate relationship, with David Gilkes. Dave was English and hailed from Southampton – he had emigrated with his son Steven in 1992. Dave and I emailed back and forth for a while, then started phoning – I remember being on the phone for 4 hours one evening! We did not meet until March 1999, when he came to my apartment for dinner. That initial “date” was quite awkward, but as he left I gave him a kiss, much to my surprise. He says he went home and just thought it was a nice night out – typical guy! Dave lived in Mission, which is about 90 kilometers from Richmond, and not the place I would have driven to on the off-chance. However, after a while, I started driving out Friday evenings or Saturday mornings, and spending the weekend. I left Timmy and Panda in the care of a pet-sitter, though later on I took Timmy with me. Dave owned a business called All Celebrations, doing balloon decorating and supplies. He was also Balloony the Clown, performing at birthday parties, festivals, grand openings etc. So, on weekends, I tagged along on clown jobs and gradually got involved in booking jobs for him while he was off clowning around. He kept saying that he would get me clowning, to which I always said “No way!” But, he did persuade me to try face painting, and I went, with Balloony, on my first job at Christmas 1999, at a party for CN Rail. I remember it vividly, as I was so nervous, but the time went really fast, and I was surprised afterwards because I’d enjoyed the painting and interaction with the children.
That “Millennium Year” I accompanied Balloony on many entertainment gigs, including at the Hard Rock Café in downtown Vancouver, and numerous other parties, as well as assisting to decorate with balloon décor. I was pretty busy on the weekends!
We continued to see each other through to the year 2000, when we decided to try and buy a house and move in together. We ended up purchasing a house on a “rent-to-own” basis from a fellow clown and his wife. The house was located at 33583 1st Avenue, Mission. In retrospect, using the rent-to-own idea was not a good one as it led to bad feelings between us and our friends in the end, but at the time it was the only way we could afford a house. We moved in April 2000. I still had my apartment in Richmond as I’d been unable to sell it while the building was swathed in blue tarps and sported holes in the walls (from more repairs). So, we signed it over to a company in Vancouver, which was supposed to sell it for us, but in the meantime they would rent it (that didn’t work either).
Panda had gone to live with Mum & Dad on Vancouver Island, as she had taken a dislike to David from seeing him for the first time in clown costume – Timmy wasn’t at all worried and just loved the extra attention, so he made the move with us, and enjoyed a garden again after years indoors.
The house itself was a two-level rancher, with the basement underground. It had been built in the 1950’s and had not had much done to it since, but it was quite spacious. Dave proceeded to fill it up with his business stock and collections. The house had a macabre history as a murder had taken place in the basement in the 1980’s, but we never felt anything “unnatural” there.
I was still working at the Richmond School Board, so commuted to Richmond on a daily basis until the end of June and the summer break. It was a very long, tiring journey, taking 1 ½ hours each way, but I so enjoyed my job that I did not want to leave and look for another position. Then, a week after school started again in September, I had a car accident just down the road from our house, on my way to work in the morning. Another, bigger, car, hit my car head-on while I was turning on a left-hand green signal light. My poor little Mazda 323 was a write-off, and I ended up with moderate whiplash. I was off work for six months altogether, while I recuperated and received rehabilitation. I’d never had whiplash before and I have the greatest sympathy for those who suffer, or have suffered from it, as it is a very nasty injury.
I finally returned to work in April 2001, only working a few weeks really until the end of another school year. This time I found myself driving a white Dodge Caravan, quite a change for me as I’d always had cars before; however Dave felt safer knowing I was more protected, and as I got used to the van, so did I.
In December 2001, we lost our beloved Timmy cat, at 15 years old; both Dave and I were devastated over this loss, and it was strange not to have any cats in the house. Christmas that year was a sad one for us.
However, in early 2002, we decided to welcome another feline into our home, and started to look around. Through the Fraser Valley Humane Society, we located a tabby kitten at a foster home and went to see him. The mother cat was a beautiful silky grey colour, and had 3 kittens, the tabby one, and 2 black and white females. I really wanted a tabby again, and when we found out no-one was willing to take the mom cat, we brought her home as well – and Magic and Misty entered our lives and hearts.
During the start of the school year in 2002, I became aware of rumours circulating about budget cutbacks again, but decided not to dwell on the issue. So, it was a complete shock when I was advised that one of my jobs was being eliminated, and I was promptly “bumped” from another, plus the contract position came to an end. This time I made the decision to leave the School Board, as it was much too far for me to commute on a “sub” basis. I had worked there for almost 6 years and enjoyed most of the time.
I started applying for other jobs closer to home, but did not have much luck – it seemed my years at the school district had limited my experience, and I could not even get on with our local school board due to their budget limitations. I took a course at the Strategic Quality Institute in Abbotsford, which helped to restore my confidence, but I still could not get hired. After my Employment Insurance ran out, I started to help Dave with the business and we managed to survive on one income.
In August 2002, I said it was about time Dave and I had a holiday. We had not been away for any vacations together, and it seemed like we had just been working non-stop. So, Steven came to the house to cat-sit Misty and Magic for a week, and we packed up the van and drove into the interior of BC, stopping first at Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon to have a ride on the gondola – scary stuff! We had intended to sleep in the van but of course (I knew that), it was too hot and stifling in the van to get any sleep. After the first night, we went into motels! Some of the highlights of that trip were the first night camping at Monte Creek (heat and ants), Nakusp, Kootenay Lake (finding a paper bag with .70 cents in, with the metal detector), Sandon (obviously a favourite of mine by now), Falkland, Fort Steele (two kittens playing in a tree), and the O’Keefe Ranch. We felt much more relaxed after our week away.
In September 2002, Dave’s Mum, Minnie, died of lung cancer in England. It was very sad as I had gotten to know her through our mutual letters and phone calls. We were not able to return for the funeral as my passport had expired, and the new one came through too late.
Around this time, both Dave and I had thought about moving to another area that might be more beneficial to us financially-speaking. Our part of the Fraser Valley did not seem to be moving forward economically, and we often talked about it and thought “there must be something more to life”. Of course, if we’d had a crystal ball at that stage, we might have known that the economy and the area was about to make a turn-around – ah, but then, other events might not have happened! Something for a philosophical discussion, perhaps?
I really wanted to stay in BC, while Dave was more interested in Ontario, as most of his relatives (sister, nieces and nephews), lived there. So, in September 2003, we decided to take a trip over to Orangeville, Ontario and size up the situation. We left Magic and Misty in Steven’s care again, and started our drive – and what a drive that was! I had only been (in a car) as far as Alberta, and by air to Toronto, so was not prepared for the enormous distances involved in driving. We took turns at the wheel though, and slept rough in the van at night, in order to save money (good thing it was September and not too hot or cold!).
We left Mission about 5 a.m. Driving through Osoyoos and the Kootenays was very smoky due to the forest fires that year being quite bad, and poor Dave didn’t see much of the Rockies either, as they were also obscured. We drove through to Medicine Hat, Alberta, getting there around 11:00 p.m. We parked in the library parking lot, and slept there overnight. I remember Dave scaring me by saying that a police car was coming – I was making use of the bucket at the time, and not too happy with him, especially when an ordinary car drove by! From Medicine Hat, we drove into Manitoba, where we decided to look for somewhere to have a picnic. Near Regina, I spotted what looked like a lovely rest area, with washrooms, and drove in. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be a cemetery! We beat a hasty retreat and motored on.
Another surprise was the Prairies. Having always been told they were flat, it was pleasant to discover a landscape of slight rolling hills; we quickly found out that first thing in the morning, the sun came up, disappeared behind a hill, came out again, disappeared, etc. There were small settlements, and grain silos dotted along the way.
When we finally passed from Manitoba into northern Ontario, we thought it would only be a short time before we got to our destination of Orangeville. But, we had no idea again of the windy mountain roads, and how long it actually took to drive through northern Ontario down to south-central Ontario. We got horribly lost in Kenora, and did not think much of the town at all, although we had to stay there overnight. On the map, it shows the main highway as skirting Lake Superior, and we imagined that the road would run alongside the lake and we would have a lovely view plus access to the lake. Not so! Between us and the lake was a vast forest, and although there must have been provincial parks there, we only found day picnic sites, one of which overlooked the vast Lake Superior, and was a lovely spot. We also stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay, and found it awe-inspiring.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at a small roadside café in Marathon. The waitresses warned us about driving at night because of the danger of moose on the road, and eerily that same night we ended up parked next to a car which had been involved in a fatal collision with a moose the previous week – the windscreen was all smashed in. However, despite me keeping my eyes peeled as Dave drove, we saw neither hair nor hide of a moose – fortunately.
We finally drove through Barrie – I was driving and it was a bit scary suddenly coming into a big city and rush hour traffic, after driving kilometers seeing only a few vehicles. Dave took over driving and we finally arrived in Orangeville in the afternoon. We went straight to Dave’s niece’s house at 3 Park Lane, but they were out, so we drove into the city and walked around to stretch our legs. It was quite hot and I felt disheveled and dirty, only wanting a shower! Finally, we got to meet Jane and Dean, and their children, Samantha (14), Rachel (12) and Kenny (3). It was heaven to be able to sleep in a bed again, have a hot shower, and eat a lovely dinner! The hospitality shown to us by Dave’s relatives was outstanding – we were invited to dinner by Dave’s sister Ann, and by his nieces Susan and Cheryl. I must say I’ve never seen such huge steaks in my life!
Our intention in travelling to Orangeville was, of course, to check out the town, its amenities, employment and housing. During the time we stayed in the town, we did all that, visiting housing subdivisions, realtors, insurance places, City Hall, and the Chamber of Commerce. One thing I wasn’t sure of was the winter, as I hate the cold and snow, and it seemed like they got quite a lot of that there. The people were friendly too.
On our return to Mission, Dave and I seriously started thinking of moving to Ontario. So, the first thing we did was start having garage sales every weekend, to try and get rid of some of our excess "baggage". All-day yard sales can be very tiring! However, gradually stuff began to go, and Dave began packing. We also put the house on the market, and, since it sold really quickly, we arranged for the new owners to let us remain as tenants until April 2004.
Dave's niece and her husband, in Orangeville, had offered to rent us their basement suite when we arrived - we had looked at it when we were down there, and it seemed large enough at the time.
So, in April 2004, the moving van arrived and started to pack all our belongings. We were also taking Misty and Magic with us, and kitted up the van to take a large cage big enough for them, two catbeds and a litter box - there wasn't much space left for us! We set off on a beautiful late April spring day, stayed overnight with Al and Bob Gumbleton in Chilliwack, and left again in the morning. Our drive to Ontario took 3 days, with the moving van set to follow. Leaving BC was bittersweet, especially for me, as I had lived there for some 40 years by then. We arrived in Orangeville at 6 am, May 3rd, and after the lovely weather in BC, it was a shock, as it was still quite chilly there, with not much sign of spring.
Jane and Dean showed us into the basement suite, and it was all a bit of an anticlimax really – I was expecting some of that hospitality and didn’t quite get it. We unloaded the cats and got them settled, and brought in a few of our own belongings. Then we went and had a nap on a mattress on the floor in what was supposed to be our bedroom - except the pipes for the bathrooms upstairs came right through that room, so every time someone upstairs went to the "loo" or had a shower, it was noisy. I thought right away that the suite would be way too small for all our stuff, and it seemed that Jane and Dean still required access to one of the rooms used as a kids' toy room, and of course to the furnace room. Also, the door to the basement stairs at the top, did not lock, so the kids were always coming downstairs, which was not very private. The afternoon of our arrival also brought quite a shock - Jane told us that the house was up for sale! Why she didn't mention this before was a mystery to us, as we would have made other living arrangements. We felt very unsettled and did not know what to do. First thing of course was to notify the moving company and tell them not to send the van yet. Then, we decided to visit a realtor and find out if there were any suitable houses to rent, as we also knew that the suite was way too small for us and the 50-foot moving van chock full of belongings. That night, we visited a house for rent, which was located at 294 Broadway, the main street through Orangeville. Since I don't intend to repeat that whole story, I now refer you to Appendix I (have fun!).
In July 2004, our magician friends Al and Bob Gumbleton, arrived, via train, to spend some time with us. One day, we decided to drive to Aylmer, south of London, to look at a house for sale. The house was not suitable, but the woman realtor asked us to return to St. Thomas with her, as she said there were lots of houses for sale there. So we did, and that's how we ended up having a house built by Cannon Homes Ltd. in Lyndhurst Village subdivision, just outside St. Thomas.
The house that Cannon built, was supposed to have been ready for us in November 2005, but wasn't, and since we had to get out of the mouldy house on Broadway, we ended up renting (Cannon paid for it) a house at 23 Cook Crescent in St. Thomas, for a month, until we could move into our new home. We both hated that house on Cook, as did Misty! It was small, dark, awkwardly placed on the lot, with few windows for Misty to look out of, despite the fact it was a relatively new house. Also, there was no fridge, stove, washer or dryer, so we made do with a microwave and bar fridge on loan from Jane, and I hand-washed a few clothes to keep us going.
In December, the new house was finally ready, and we moved yet again - the fourth move in a year! Yikes! We finally had some space of our own, but we had to purchase new fridge, stove and dishwasher, and the washer and dryer were second-hand. It was nice to start unpacking for a change, instead of packing. But the winter was soon upon us - and we discovered that whoever told us that southwestern Ontario was the "banana belt" of the country had to be kidding! Sure, they didn't have six to ten feet of snow, but there was a lot of snow and it got very cold, down to -20 C. As the subdivision was still being built, the roads were not paved and when the mud froze, with snow on top, it made getting around very difficult – walking across to the mail box was not fun. We quickly discovered that people down in that part of the country were not as friendly as in BC.
Although we got a few clown jobs right away, we also found that Ontarians were not as used to hiring clowns as folk back in BC were; in fact, they seemed quite suspicious of the whole idea. Dave spent a lot of time putting brochures and ads together, and we drove around handing them out – I don’t think we got a single job out of it. The Chamber of Commerce in St. Thomas was a very tight-knit organization, and we found it very difficult to break into the business community. I applied for several jobs, but only got a few interviews. I worked one day stuffing flyers into the local newspaper before deciding that standing on my feet all day was not for me! I also did some typing for a local fellow who was doing his memoirs.
I began to get very unhappy and homesick for BC and my family. I discussed it with Dave and, since things were not going very well for us anyway, we decided to sell the house and move back to BC. So, the garage sales started again, and during this time we met Ernie Fougere, who came and bought a lot of stuff from us, and then introduced us to Ebay. So we began selling on Ebay, which kept our heads above water while the house was on the market. We started out trying to sell the house ourselves, which didn’t really work, so in the end we listed it with a realtor and eventually sold it.
One day in late October 2005, the moving van came again and loaded up most of our belongings. Dave and I packed up his van (mine had been sold), including Misty and Magic in their warm and padded cage. We spent a few hours with Ernie before driving up to Orangeville to stay the night with Jane and Dean. Next morning, there was six inches of snow on the ground, so I donned my snow pants and sweater, and off we went again!
The snow lasted right through Barrie, and we had flurries thereafter, but I was warm (from the waist down anyway), so were the cats – in fact, they were probably better off than us! I believe we made it back to BC in four days, and it was interesting for me to see BC in the winter as I’d only ever traveled in the Interior and through the Kootenays in summer before. Dave well remembers the Salmo-Creston Summit as a tight-knuckles drive – it was snowy and slippery, and the road was closed right after we traversed it. Also, a carload of teenagers “mooned” us at the start of the pass - it must have been chilly for them!
Before leaving Ontario, Dave and I had talked about where we should live on our return. We’d decided not to go back to Mission, and our discussion had ranged from the Shuswap area to Vancouver Island, to the Lower Mainland to the Fraser Valley – of course it all depended on where we could afford to live.
We arrived in Chilliwack on November 23, 2005, on a lovely, sunny but cool day – I remember thinking how beautiful the mountains looked with their snowy caps. We stayed with Dave’s son Steven and his girlfriend Meghan, in their spare room – it was a tight sqeeze with our belongings and the cats too. Sleeping arrangements were not great; the air mattress we tried first had a hole in it, so gradually deflated during the night, leaving Dave on a very hard surface. Then, one day we bumped into Emma Vince! We had known her and her mother Pat Vince, when we lived in Mission, lost touch when we moved away, and had no idea they had moved to Chilliwack. They lent us a single mattress, which was heaven after sleeping in the van anyway! Also, I’m sure Steven and Meghan found it difficult to have two “old fogeys” land on them and upset their lifestyle!
We found a realtor and he started showing us houses. We had understood from the bank in Ontario that our mortgage was “portable” and we could afford a house up to $200,000. Unfortunately, in the time we had been away, the price of houses had risen considerably, and we discovered we could not afford to buy a single, detached house anywhere in the Fraser Valley or Lower Mainland.
So, we decided to look further abroad, and, leaving Magic and Misty once again in the care of Steven, we headed off to search in the Interior. Our base was a house on acreage near Quesnel, owned by Pat Vince, which she was also trying to sell and tried to get us interested in. We stopped first at 100 Mile House, where we had an appointment with a realtor. None of the houses she showed us were suitable – too old, too small. On we went to Quesnel, finding Pat’s house in the dark. The house itself was actually quite comfortable, with a huge woodstove which kept the building toasty warm. We thought it would make a good “bed-and-breakfast”. However, Pat was vague about where the sewage pit was, and the water made horrible rust stains in the toilet, sinks, and washer. Also, the tales of moose, bear and wolves, plus the over-run of green frogs in the summer, put us off – we decided perhaps we were not country people after all! The realtor in Quesnel put us off buying, saying there was a high crime rate in town, and he said also not to bother going to Prince George as crime was terrible there too! We did put an offer in for a property just outside Quesnel – it consisted of two houses and a converted barn. The barn was lovely, we thought, and we could rent the houses out. However, it was at this point the bank informed us that we could only buy a house to the value of $100,000! So we came back to Chilliwack feeling very disheartened, without buying anything and completely up-in-the-air about where to go next – we were starting to get desperate! That night we drowned our sorrows in a couple of glasses of rum and coke…
Then, out of the blue, Mum phoned and asked us if we would like to go over to their place in Qualicum Beach, for Christmas, and to stay with them for a while. By that time, we had been at Steven’s place for a month, and the atmosphere was beginning to get a bit tense. So, pack up we did, and traveled over to Vancouver Island on December 23, 2005.
We arrived to the news that my brother Bob, had disappeared, as was his wont from time to time, but fortunately he turned up the next day. Apart from that, it was lovely to see Mum & Dad again, and settle into a comfortable room (with a real bed!) for a change, and Mum & Dad were so hospitable. Misty and Magic were glad to have a larger space, and in the evenings we were able to let them run around the house – while Panda was confined in another room.
We relaxed over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and just got our bearings again, after so long travelling and being unsettled. In January, we started looking for houses on Vancouver Island, as they seemed more in our price range, and I had always liked the area, even though Dave was wary of the tsunami possibility. We looked at houses in Nanaimo, Campbell River and even Tahsis (what were we thinking – desperation I suppose), none of which were remotely suitable. We also looked at a few houses in Port Alberni and thought they were terrible, so I said I didn’t want to live there.
One day, while at the realtor’s office, we were introduced to another agent, and ended up telling him our housing problems – he said he knew just the person, her name was Angela Wilton and she was a mortgage broker. She was located in Delta, but we contacted her and got the ball rolling regarding a new mortgage approval, and not our so-called “portable” one from Ontario. With the ceiling raised for housing prices, we went back to Port Alberni and searched again. This is how we found our current house at 3228 4th Avenue, and we moved in February, 2006. It was heaven to finally be settled again! The cats were also ecstatic!
Dave immediately started setting up All Celebrations in town, and we found such a difference from Ontario. Everyone we met was friendly and amenable to the new business. Dave began to get inquiries almost immediately, and soon clown and face painting jobs started to come in. We worked that year at Coombs Fair, the Canada Day celebrations, the Toy Run, A&W Grand Opening, Canadian Tire, and the Salmon Festival.
In May 2006, I got a job as maternity relief legal secretary at Stofer, Smith & Company, a law firm located on Argyle Street and 2nd Avenue. This was the first full-time position I’d had for four years, so I was a bit nervous about returning to work. The pay was only $10.00 an hour, which was very low, but jobs can be hard to find sometimes. However, I quickly discovered that this job was something else – I was run off my feet the whole day, and although I was officially hired as “receptionist”, that title really didn’t fit the job description, even though I realize that receptionists do a lot more today than answering the phone and greeting people. One of the partners, who shall remain nameless, was a real hard case and made my life miserable – one of the worst employers I’ve ever worked for. As a result, I began to experience a lot of stress, and also found that my daily walking up the hill and around town to the courthouse and post office, banks and other law offices, was inducing chest pains and shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat. I had always felt shortness of breath walking uphill or up stairs, but now it was much worse.
I went to the doctor and got myself checked out, but ECGs showed no change, so it was put down to anxiety. Anyway, things got progressively worse, coupled with the fact that Dave and I were, by then, also having problems, and I began to feel overwhelmed. I don’t intend to go into too much detail, as these things are too personal to be broadcast. In the end, I collapsed one day on my daily errands walk, and was taken to hospital, where a heart arrhythmia was detected, and my blood pressure was discovered to be in the stroke range. I took a couple of days off work, and quit the job when I returned on a Monday morning. I was just two weeks shy of completing the contract.
I went to stay with Mum & Dad for a while, a temporary separation to work things out. During this time, I had a stress test done at the hospital, went into atrial fibrillation, was admitted to emergency, and sent down by ambulance to Victoria, where I underwent an angiogram, which uncovered no structural heart abnormalities. That did not put my mind at rest since I was still experiencing an irregular heartbeat, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pains.
After that, I was resting at Mum & Dad’s place, while going back and forth to various doctors in Port Alberni. During this time I felt pretty ill, and frustrated with the medical system for not figuring out what was wrong with me.
In September 2007, I returned home, and Dave and I began to patch up our relationship. Shortly before I had left the law firm, Dave had rented a store front and was trying to run the business from there. In the end, financial difficulties forced him to move All Celebrations back home. But, Dave’s health was not very good either, and gradually he started to close the business down, while still doing the odd clowning job. Dave applied for provincial disability benefits (PWD), and was approved in 2008.
In Spring 2008, we went through another separation as I was still very unwell and unable to cope with everything. However, we got back together again later that year, and I also applied for PWD. My application was not as smooth however, and I went through two appeals before finally being approved for benefits in 2009.
One highlight in 2009, September 16th (Dave’s birthday), was a voyage down the Alberni Inlet on the ‘Frances Barkley’. Alas, it was a rainy old day and very misty and cool, however, we enjoyed the trip and our short stopover in Ucluelet, plus seeing humpback whales and seals along the way.
Much of 2009 and 2010 was taken up with medical appointments for both of us. We were now on disability and finding it difficult to cope with reduced energy levels and stress, but we managed to laugh every day and thus kept our spirits up.
And then there was Min… One day in the spring of 2010, I suddenly felt an inexplicable urge to go for a walk in our garden. I persuaded Dave to come with me, and we were ambling around looking at the spring flowers, when I heard a faint meow from somewhere. On looking around, I spied a small orange kitten by our side gate. Of course, with us both being cat-lovers, and my history of rescuing kittens and cats, this little feline, who obviously did not have another home, shortly joined our family, and was quickly named Min, or Minnie, after Dave’s Mum. What a delight she is! Always on the go, very intelligent and curious, and just has to go to bed early, with me, or else. Gets along with everyone, including Misty and Magic, loves attention.
Also, in April 2010, I underwent my first cardiac ablation, in an attempt to get rid of the atrial fibrillation. Unfortunately, I awoke from the anesthetic with the unmistakable agonizing pain of a kidney stone, due to all the fluid pumped into me during the surgery. I had to stay in hospital overnight, and Mum & Dad took me home the following day. I had no pain from the ablation, just the kidney stone! I was quite ill for about a week or so. There was no fibrillation until a few months later, when I got overheated and overtired one day, and then the afib was back with a vengeance.
I had my second ablation in August 2011, which to mind, was also unfavourable; this time I had to stay overnight due to the groin wound (where they put the catheter into the artery), bleeding profusely. I was also back in fibrillation, which was not good.
I saw the electrophysiologist in January 2012, and was told that I was now better, since the holter monitor test done in September 2011 showed only skipped beats, not afib, and my ECG (a 3-second strip), was also clear. Things remained this way until March 2012, when both Dave and I came down with Norovirus, a very nasty tummy bug. The result for me was to go into afib right away. However, it was not until I cut my finger and had to go to hospital for stitches, that the afib was discovered and I was put back on warfarin again. Shortly after that, I also experienced an abscessed wisdom tooth and a kidney stone!
And here I will leave the story, except perhaps to add updates from time to time. By the way, my favourite colour is turquoise blue, I stand 5’5”, and my eyes are hazel. Other statistics you will have to work out for yourself.
THINGS MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME
Don’t take life too seriously; life is too short.
Patience is a virtue.
Take time to smell the roses.
Respect your elders.
Be kind to animals.
Do not mock the afflicted.
Always wear clean underwear; you never know when you might be in an accident.