Tag Archives: Ontario

the “Idiocy of Rural Life” quote

The little phrase “the idiocy of rural life” was rolling around in my head as I started this blog, and I finally decided I should look it up to at least attribute it. I found out that the source is good ol’ Karl Marx, but I also found out that he never really said it in the first place – what he was talking about was rather the isolation of rural life. Read this for a detailed explanation.

A portrait of Karl Marx.

I never said it!

Okay, so the translator manhandled the meaning a little, but the phrase has staying power. And isolation can lead to a little blissful, near-sighted idiocy, no?

I am reminded of a friend who had a very smiley happy baby, and who confessed to me, “We’re worried that she’s not very bright…”

Northern Ontario: Camping Paradise

Everyone in B.C. thinks they’ve got some kind of monopoly on scenic beauty, but the unbelievably vast reaches of northern Ontario are pretty spectacular too.

Ontario has only one national park (Pukaskwa), but there are about 90 provincial parks scattered throughout the province. So many that it was easy to just drive until I got tired, and then locate the nearest campground and pull in. They were staggeringly easy to find, even when my brain was staggering with fatigue. Good signage, Ontario! (Beating B.C. hands down – I had a heck of a time locating an official provincial park campground in the interior… they weren’t properly marked and I just kept driving past them. I eventually had to give up and check into a motel instead.)

Nothing helped to slough off the old city skin better than a few nights of tenting, chopping wood, twilight swims, birdsong, and rustling leaves. And having all your clothes smell like smoke. Here’s our sampling of parks along our route through northern Ontario…

Fairbanks Provincial Park (west of Sudbury)

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park (near Rossport)

(large bunnies roaming fearlessly about made
the wilderness seem significantly less rugged)

Sandbar Lake Provincial Park (near Ignace) – our last night in Ontario.

Farewell to Ontario!

Step 77: Escape the Funnel

As we drove away, away, ever away from Toronto, I couldn’t help but notice that for days and days Toronto kept popping up on freeway signs. Like it was lurking about, waiting for a chance to reel me back in. Just a moment’s inattention at an interchange and BAM! I’d find myself looping back towards the Big TOe.

One of my biggest complaints with Toronto has always been that it’s so hard to escape from! It takes hours just to get out of the place, through butt-ugly industrial wastelands, jostling elbow to elbow with crazed drivers weaving wildly from lane to lane. It’s gruesome. And if you ever do manage to get away for a relaxing weekend, you always have ahead of you the drive back into Toronto, which obliterates all the effects of the previous relaxation.

And yet, even when we were eight or nine hours north of the city, I still felt like, one wrong turn later, we could be right smack back in rush hour at Yonge and Bloor in just half an hour’s time.

This is what southern Ontario feels like:

Or more precisely:

I am that spinning quarter, drawn inexorably down, down into the vortex that is Toronto.

The Grass is Not Only Not Greener on the other side of the fence, It Appears to be Dead

Talking here about schools. Our public school here in Toronto is over 90 years old, has 1000 students (capacity 800) and is literally falling apart, but rather than spending money on basic infrastructure the Ontario Dept. of Education would rather splurge on forcing every school  – whether they have the space or not – to make the switch from half-day to all-day kindergarten.

(Deftly turning a daycare issue into an education system issue. What we really need are affordable daycare spots, not a plan to shoehorn more kids into an underfunded school system!)

It’s a simple, predictable problem. In our school, as in others, the morning kindergarten classes share the same classrooms with the afternoon kindergarten classes, naturally. Soooo, if everyone does full-day, you need twice the number of classrooms.

We’re just lucky we got through kindergarten here before our school switched, because I don’t know where they’re going to put everyone – in the hall? the gym? the furnace room?

And luckily we got through our two years of junior and senior kindergarten fully staffed with teachers and teaching assistants before they lowered the axe on the TA’s just recently. Also thankfully the teachers the Boss has had have been extraordinary – warm and caring and professional and helpful despite being constantly hobbled by gov’t directives. Also also also thankfully we’ll be moving before she becomes immersed in the teach-to-the-test idiocy of the upper grades.

And don’t even get me started on the french immersion mania that goes on in my neighbourhood. (Recently leading to boundary changes for the school and much parental hysteria.)

And yet…

We seem to be headed to an even more dysfunctional Dept. of Education, in B.C., where they’d rather spend money putting iPads in the hands of every child than pay teachers a decent wage and allow them to do their jobs.

I am a staunch supporter of public schools, I am loyal to them and believe in public education with all my heart. But heavy-handed government interference and lack of adequate funding is really starting to make home-schooling look darn good.

In the end, however, we’ll stay in the system, just because the teachers are so wonderful.

Steps 20 to 32: Buy a Car

I have lived in Toronto for (gulp) 24 years, and I’ve never had a car! For the first ten years I was too broke to buy one. Even when I did have a little money, it still didn’t make any sense. When you live in downtown Toronto, and don’t have to drive to work, it’s hard to rationalize the huge cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

I filled in the mobility gap with rental cars and a membership in Autoshare, a brilliant, car-sharing cooperative that enabled several years of shopping trips to Ikea.

I typed ‘bumpkins’ into Google and this is what I got

However! Not only are we about to become car-dependent rural bumpkins, but the plan is also to drive out there in a cross-Canada adventure astonishing both in scope and in lack of a timetable.

Which requires wheels.

A car! At this my eyes go all swirly – cue flashback to age 16… after lobbying heavily for my own car, on my birthday my parents present me with (gasp!) a set of keys! … my very own set of keys to the family van. My job of chauffeuring siblings had begun.

It took me 8 years to finally get a car, and I still had to share it! It was a ’74 Comet, lime-greeny/yellow, co-owned with my roommate in Saskatoon in 1988.

I drove (and repaired) that car for only a few months before leaving it behind in the move to Toronto. And now, 24 years later (!), I have bought my 2nd car!

The process for acquiring the Comet, if I remember correctly, was as follows:

1. pay seller of car,

2. go to licensing office and pay a nominal fee ($40 sticks in my mind), upon which you receive both gov’t insurance and license plates. Done!

Buying a car in Ontario in 2012 is a slightly different matter. (Continuing in my zillion steps from TO to SSI countdown…)

Step 20 – find a used car to buy

Step 21 – hunt about for crazily over-priced insurance

Step 22 – request insurance history letters

Step 23 – wait a really long time to receive insurance history letters

Step 24 – finalize crazily over-priced insurance

Step 25 – safety test

Step 26 – take emissions test

Step 27 – fail emissions test

Step 28 – get a new catalytic converter

Step 29 – pass emissions test (a round of champagne for everyone!)

Step 30 – collect all paperwork in a handy wheelbarrow

Step 31 – wheel it down to the appropriate gov’t office

Step 32 – pay lots of money to everyone involved

Et voilà! I own a car! (cue the confetti cannon)  More on the newest member of our family in my next post.

Now I start a new paper trail to get a parking permit…

Appendix 1: In The Interests of Fairness and Accuracy, I must avow that the seller of the automobile was gentleman enough to pay for safety test and emissions tests and repairs (the latter after the car had changed hands), so I really have no reason to complain. Though that won’t stop me…

Appendix 2: The ladies at Service Ontario who processed my transfer of registration were delightful. Which sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. They actually were. And they were astonished that I had every little bit of paper that I needed – most people need ten trips to get it all sorted out.