BACK IN OUR university days my friends and I lucked upon a cheap housing deal – a rural house situated on an abandoned farm just north of Trent University near Peterborough, Ontario. The digs had been passed down from student to student, with the university as landlord, and carried the name “Total Loss Farm” – taken from a 1970s back-to-the-land memoir.
ITS CROWDED DOWN HERE in the birth canal! I reach the start line first, before my sister Beth, but then things get screwed up. I’m sure it’s not my fault I’ve turned breach. But it jams things up for both of us when I get stuck the wrong way around. My mother is exhausted from two days of labour. Her small town Alberta doctor panics. The result? A Caesarian. And so I’m suddenly at the end of the line instead of the head. My sister is lifted out first, leaving me in second place. A rivalry is born.
THREE YEARS AGO, my wife Nichola and I visited Paris and Marseille while our son Thomas was in France on an exchange. It amazed me how we can pick up the language once every few years, and even improve. We were better than we’d been in Belgium five years earlier, and way beyond the high school French we’d both started with so many decades ago.