I arrived in this little community half way up Vancouver Island the year I finished my teacher training at the University of BC. My intention at the time was to stay for a year. Two at the most.
And here I still am some forty-plus years later. That’s just not like me. I don’t like to stay in the same place for too long. While I am not a gypsy, I cherish roving. So I have no answer as to why I am still here. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I’m more insecure than I think I am. Familiarity, the cliché goes, breeds contempt, and it does with me and this place is entirely too familiar for my liking.
In my last year of university, when I was on the cusp of something or other in my life, though nothing was clear to me, I would look out the windows of a favored room for studying and regarding assorted coeds with poignant fantasies regarding divesting them of their panties and coiting with them right below the carrel at which I was ostensibly working. In other words, I had normal impulses for a guy in his early twenties. At the same time, when I wasn’t being moist lingeries obsessed, I would look over at the snowcapped mountains of Vancouver Island and think, I’d like to be there.
And within less than a year there I was.
And here I still am.
I got away once. Back in 1980. I went to England for a year. I loved it. I felt like I was at home there. I do not recall any incidents of homesickness. And mainly I did not miss the community or the lovely waterfront home that awaited my return. No, all I missed was my dog. Dogs are always missed.
But, after the year-long sojourn I came back. And, aside from some soul-enhancing trips – not to mention a brief stint of commuting between here and Victoria where we maintained an apartment for a couple of years in the middle of the first decade of this century while Wendy was working for the province — here I stay. I’m still not entirely certain why.
As I wrote, I had every intention of staying for a year or two and then after that to hit the road to elsewhere. Having grown up in greater Vancouver I wanted to get back to the ‘smoke’ as early as possible. In the big city there was theatre, there were clubs, there was entertainment, there were bookstores galore, there were galleries. In the Comox Valley – then – there were none of those things. We had a sad little cinema that appeared to favor offerings of the Rock Hudson and Doris Day sort, a difficult slog for a cineaste snob who’d learned to love Fellini’s and Bergrman’s respective oeuvres. An audience of loggers doesn’t tend to appreciate a plethora of subtitles – though I am certain there are exceptions. And as for book access there was, aside from an eighteenth-rate library, the drugstore paperbacks, and that was about it.
To top that off, there were only two TV channel choices. I felt like I was in a time-warp.
Anyway, when I first arrived I cut the hicks very little quarter and we left for the city – either Vancouver or, at the very least, Victoria, whenever we could.
But, as we were teachers we were able to take advantage of those luxurious two months of hiatus from the classroom. And don’t tell me that teachers don’t boast a huge advantage when it comes to down-time. Their lives in terms of vacations offered are unlike those of any other working stiff. And what we did for our two months is to go to the United Kingdom, Ireland and continental Europe. Despite the fact that journey was so many years ago, so many of the impressions gained still stick happily in my mind, from sausage bun and beer lunches in Munich to getting shitfaced on poteen in the Ulster village of Templepatrick. I have written elsewhere of our odd little hotel in London, so no more about that here. These comments aren’t meant to offer an elaboration on our European travels but just to explain how what was meant to be a single year in this place tended to expand to what is arguably too many years.
By the time we returned to the clunky li’l Comox Valley we were exhausted and the new school year was about to begin I was feeling considerably more confident in the pedagogical realm as a veteran of already having had a year in harness. And it looked like the makings of something I could continue to tolerate – for at least a little time longer. The ‘bearability’ of the year to come was vastly improved by a new teacher on staff. An English lass named Fiona (we shall say), who was arguably one of the most delicious females I had ever set eyes. She looked considerably like the actress of the day, Joanna Pettet and was tallish and blonde and possessed of an enticingly risqué mind and wore skirts so short that I pretty much was able to memorize what most of her panties looked like, especially since she was so casual about the way she sat. I had such fantasies about her, as did a lot of staffers and, as a male colleague once said: “It was a good thing Fiona left in short order (as she, alas did) or there would have been broken marriages all over the place.
Aside from Fiona, however, there was something else that rendered the place more alluring to us. We got a chance to move out of the sterile apartment we’d lived in during our first year and into a beach cottage. After all, if you are living in a waterfront community, then why not live on the beach? And so we did. And we lived in that humble rental cottage for the following five years. What can I say? It was pleasing to build a roaring fire and feel the place shake in a southeaster. It was more than pleasing to take the little boat out and catch a salmon to barbecue for dinner. And so, there we stayed. We got ourselves a cat and seemed to be in a state of domestic serenity.