As you may have guessed during this time of prolonged silence on the blog front, I've been away on holidays. Fall is our favourite time for trips back to Ontario to see family - the fall colours make it the best time to be there, in my opinion. It's been a few years since we've been back in the fall, prevented by health problems and last year's election, and this year we had extra reason to spend time with family - Andrea has a September birthday, and this year it was what her family calls a milestone birthday, where as many of them as possibly (she's one of eight), get together.
We left the day after the September 23 council meeting, taking Via Rail from Saskatoon, arriving in Toronto two days later. That weekend was Andrea's birthday celebration with her family, which we spent just outside Alonquin Park. We rented three cottages, and five sisters, three brothers-in-law, two nephews, a niece and two dogs had a great couple of days enjoying the fall colours and the warm and sunny weather, talking, laughing, getting updates on jobs and kids, and just generally hanging out together, either on the beach, on the deck of one of the cabins, or around a campfire.
After the weekend, we spent a few days in Toronto, enjoying the city and seeing friends and more family in the evenings, before heading to my hometown, Fergus, for the weekend. The next week we spent a couple of days in Stratford, where we saw three excellent plays (Blithe Spirit, Mary Stuart and Othello), before spending Thanksgiving weekend with Andrea's youngest sister and her family near Peterborough. On Tuesday we boarded the train for the trip west, getting home late Thursday evening (or more properly, early Friday morning).
It was a very good three weeks, during which we were blessed with sunny days, and were able to touch base with family and friends that we see at best only once a year. The comforting thing is that with everyone we saw, we slipped back into conversations as though we'd just seen them a few days before - that's one sign of good and comfortable relationships.
But, of course, I never miss an opportunity to see how other communities deal with things, in hopes of picking up ideas that might help here. One of the changes in Toronto that struck me this time was the increase in the number of people getting around on bicycles. They have Bixi rental bikes that are quite well-used, many of the streets have bicycle lanes, and the lamp posts and parking meters in the downtown area have tons of bicycles chained to them. Most surprising to me, though, was seeing police and parking meter people getting around on bicycles. Considering the heavy traffic in Toronto's downtown, it's probably much faster for police to get around that way, but it also makes them quite approachable to people on the street - something that we might want to think about for police and bylaw enforcement staff, particularly in the downtown area. Mind you, we also saw a policeman on horseback going down Yonge Street one morning - I'm not sure if that would be advantageous here.
In these days of cell phones and the internet, I was never completely out of touch with some of my council colleagues, and I was able to keep up with local happenings as well. That helps in getting back into the thick of things - in the case of council, it was back to work on Saturday, as we had a strategic planning session with Corporate Services and the Fire Department. These sessions are a good opportunity to talk with staff and each other about various issues, and possible options for solutions can be discussed with those most involved. I find that I always learn something in these sessions, and I'm glad that I made it back in time.
It's always a little sad when holidays come to an end, but I can say that it was a good, relaxing time, and I'm almost looking forward to putting on my suit and tie for the next council meeting, energized from my time away.
"Wherever I go, I'm watching. Even on vacation, when I'm in an airport or railway station, I look around and find out how people do things." Richard Scarry