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Thursday, June 20, 2024
Life in the Pandemic: Waiting for ‘work’ to resume, gents walked the talk



Life since COVID-19 has changed things for all of us. We’ve experienced hardships, heartaches and challenges, but also new and sometimes unexpected reasons to be thankful. This occasional Lake Report series shares some of the stories of NOTL residents as we all reflect on our experience of life in a pandemic.

It began with a message two days before Christmas and turned into a three-month winter odyssey of bad jokes, sporting and musical reminisces, and more than a bit of COVID camaraderie to tide a group of guys over until everyone can get back to “work.”

Ken Porter’s email saying that he was planning to go walkabout several times a week struck a chord among our golfing Group of Seven (sometimes eight, sometimes fewer) and we eagerly joined him whenever we could. For this group, “work” means golf and our wintry layoff ends this week.

Porter’s call to get off the couch came after several weekly Zoom calls, led by trivia meister Paul Jacot, who would quiz the troops on all manner of arcane sports, musical, historical and geographic minutiae.

Not surprisingly, this eclectic group of gentlemen always manages to surprise with its collective knowledge of generally meaningless, but somehow meaningful, information.

However, it was time to head outdoors, physically distanced, of course. The jaunts started Dec. 28 with a hike on familiar turf – the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club – and grew to encompass treks of five kilometres or more all over town.

Some were better than others at getting out several times a week. Porter, Larry Mantle and Dow Wright seldom missed a walk. Don Cruikshank, Norm Arsenault and Jacot made it out whenever schedules permitted. Same with yours truly.

Porter’s personal goal was to walk up to 30 kilometres a week leading up to springtime and now he’s got an extra spring in his step as a result. The lanky Mantle, who could be competitive speed walker, slowed his pace by about half so some of us could almost keep up. The buff Mr. Wright, who has been known to cycle from St. Davids to Old Town just for fun, is always at home in the great outdoors.

The troupe walked in all kinds of weather but avoided a few blizzards. There were political and sports discussions, musical debates (Wrecking Crew: most underrated group of musicians ever? Definitely), and the aforementioned keep-your-brain-active trivia.

Cruikshank, who guided the crew on two historical walks around Queenston and environs, wisely remarked that “if there is one benefit to COVID, it has been the slowing down of our lives to the point where we can learn to smell the roses.”

So, this year, “instead of zooming around in our cars to the next destination, we are learning by walking how beautiful and interesting our local area is. So, it is good for our health, mentally as well as physically.”

For Porter, “the walking club was a way to get outside and get in some exercise and catch up with the guys.”

“I look forward to each day we get together as there is never a problem covering and debating all the topics, politics, sports, local and world news, trivia, storytelling and, most importantly, how everyone and their families are doing during these crazy times.”

“I hate to admit it, but these fellow walkers are quite smart and each time out you learn something, but don't want to tell them that.”

Arsenault has a “part-time” job as a town councillor that seems to involve about 60 hours of work each week, so he’s often tied up. But he says, “The walks are a great way to get some exercise and maintain some level of sanity in these very unusual times.”

Mantle echoes the sentiments about living in a community “with plenty of wide-open, picturesque places to walkabout, at whatever pace suits your group.”

“Everyone appreciates the usual routes along the lakefront, river, golf course and heritage trails. And our guys have taken us to interesting places I never knew existed – such as through the woods to the Butler family grave site.”

That hike, led by Jacot, included quizzes on relevant historical details, of course.

This past Monday’s 5.5-kilometres walk around the Commons, along the Niagara River and the waterfront into Old Town, was probably “our last one without golf clubs,” as Cruikshank noted.

The NOTL Golf Club reopened Wednesday and several of Les Boys “went to work” and hit the links.

The walks, the talks, the bad (dad?) jokes will continue between shots three or four days a week through late next fall.

And once “work” is done for another season, here’s hoping we’ll all be fully vaccinated, able again to get out and explore the neighbourhoods of NOTL.

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