Skip to content

Opinion: Bill Walton, Coming Home

There truly is no place like home.
20220920 carns walton

We briefly visited southern Ontario on the weekend and we were very happy to get back to our modest but comfortable abodes in North Bay and its environs.

We, being the Warriors of Hope Breast Cancer Survivors Dragon Boat Racing Team, raced in Stratford on Saturday past. We were missing two of our more stalwart paddlers and our feisty drummer, but we acquitted ourselves well coming in second in the breast cancer survivors’ division.

We rented a new ONR coach, the better to view the highway surroundings and get us to and from in safety and comfort. Get about 20 women and three guys in a bus with no escape hatch and the discussions were lively. 

Doug Ford and his minions were verbally mauled over the Long-Term Care fiasco of sending people to beds far from their caring families. It was allowed that housing old folks in need of care a few score kilometres away in southern Ontario (we crossed that line in the snow just north of Barrie and held a moment of silence) might be acceptable, but sending someone from one hospital in northern Ontario to another, where they are as scarce as hen’s teeth to start with, can mean hours of travel for caring family members.

That was not to say that our northern MPPs didn’t speak up but they had as much chance of being heard as the three men on the bus. One of us did mention Trudeau and his death of the Queen holiday, the moment of silence, and funeral vacation day, but thumbs down, that conversation was over.

Stories were exchanged about our cancer experiences in the healthcare system which did little to give us anything to laugh about, but we were all still here, some minus parts, others still a work in progress. The net result was the continuing realization that you have to look after yourself using all the energy and determination you can muster. As the cookie-cutter houses appeared nearing Toronto, the conversation moved to housing costs and what if anything a person could do about the rising cost of living.

As nice and new as those houses and semis looked from the bus window, crowded onto cheek-by-jowl lots, all agreed we would not want to live there. As dire as North Bay’s housing shortage is, please, no southern Ontario model subdivisions. We have plenty of rough terrain and only a few scarce tillable farm lots to turn into building lots – with trees.

We were much encouraged when driving through Woodstock with its heritage streets of elegant homes. It being Saturday morning, a number of these old homes were holding yard sales. It seems more than a few of the Warriors loved looking at, if not buying, antiques. This may have had something to do with the comparability and durability of things made in the past related to today’s plastic substitutes. I tried to pose myself as an example antique but that fell flat. Maybe I needed another coat of varnish and a little buffing with a lamb’s wool cloth? No offers.

Stratford, is of course a lovely city. The Avon River, although here no doubt polluted with farm runoff, plus the daily dose of fertilizer from the ducks, geese and swans on the river, may have inspired poetry and pastoral lines in good olde England but this day it only increased our use of hand sanitizer. Stratford has that somewhat, to a northerner, special farmland smell, an eau de vie, as it were, and as culturally inspiring as it was racing in the shadow of the Avon Theatre, we were happy to depart that late afternoon.

One of our members was staying over and mentioned they had reservations for the Arden Hotel restaurant. Having dined there, I offered congratulations, assuring them that they would have a lovely meal in very pleasant surroundings. It would be nothing like North Bay has to offer, and I envied their coming meal. That is not to say we do not have some decent eateries here, but I suppose we just do not have the same potential clientele as live in the south. Read average income.

However, we can brag about our A&W in North Bay. That little chubby fellow (I mean that in a nice way, Allen) who advertises grass-fed beef and almost free teen burgers on TV ought to stop in at the Enroute just south of Barrie (southern Ontario!) because those people are destroying his reputation. How in heaven's name can you ruin both a teen burger and the precut, frozen fries? Add to that complaint poor, slow service. No tip-creep there.

Yes, it was good to be home and see all our now familiar election signs. I am certain we have more signs per square meter of boulevards than any place in Southern Ontario. Colourful signs with cryptic messages. Still trying to get my head around the Future Ahead because it sure ain’t behind us. Ideas are good. Still looking for the sign with Transparency writ large.

Anyway, another month and we’ll have new faces at City Hall.

However, the big takeaway of the weekend was a few lines one of the Warriors (my seatmate) wrote on our message board: “I had the time of my life. What drove home for me yesterday at the carnation ceremony is that we are indeed Warriors of HOPE. Not just for breast cancer but for living life as it should be lived. We have no idea the impact we have on people.

So yes, I was awestricken by the courage and determination we spread every day.”

Yay, North Bay. Go Warriors.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
Read more
Reader Feedback