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A week away on campus

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I’m just back from a wonderful time in Upper Canada and FOOF country (which, of course, you know means fine old Ontario families).

Three university volleyball doubleheaders, and Excalibur swept them all.

For all the years that the kids have played sports, they’ve never played together before. Sure, they’ve played at the same time of day in different places and there’ve been umpteen conflicts over which game(s) we’d attend, but being three years apart, they’ve never before played together.

This past Thursday was probably the last time I’ll get that opportunity, so I savoured every moment. I’ll watch child the younger for three more years, but child the elder is in fourth year. When child the elder smashed a clean kill to make it 21-14 in the third and final set, and the men’s coach cleared the bench to finish out the match, that was probably it.

Hard to imagine I’d be watching university volleyball so passionately when I think back to the junior high team at Grant Park in 2000, about 15 boys in grades 7 and 8 all learning the game. But that led to 10 years of high school, club, and university volleyball, those magical division championship evenings at Kelvin and Sisler......

Keith, Kathy, Ryan, Phil, your coaching did wonders.

Sigh.

The matches a week ago Saturday, which went five sets and four, were highlighted during the men’s match by the return of the women’s team after getting changed for their rookie party, including three rather distinctively and colourfully dressed young women, the less-than-matched clothing courtesy of a bargain chain, each young woman with the word ROOKIE written across her forehead. I immediately flashed back to the Robert Munsch story about indelible marker.

Jim, your lad got onto the floor for all three matches, and I saw him score his first point in university volleyball, a kill off the block — looked as though he faked them that he was going straight down the centre of the court, then boomed it for the near corner, and the blockers got barely a touch. First of many, I’d hope, with a spot up for grabs at left power next fall.

Lots of time this trip to talk to people and walk around campus, Trent University being one of the most beautiful universities in Canada, a walkway bridge connecting the buildings and residences on either side of the Otonabee River. And we hiked up and along the magnificent drumlin overlooking the Trent campus, amazing views from the top.

Touring the science building, I was left wondering what a university limited wing is......as in the sign that said,
The Quaker
Oats Company
of Canada
Limited Wing

This is where you all quote Homer Simpson.......

No trip to Peterborough is complete without food and beverage. When your kids go away to school, and you get to visit, you right away take them to the grocery store to fuill up the fridge and larder, and you take them to restaurants. Fabulous Thai food at Cosmic Charlie’s, The Original Greek remains marvellous, and the vegetarian sandwiches at The Planet were a revelation.

But, as always, the highlights are the meals and basement microbrew at The Olde Stone pub in the heart of the main drag, and the adjoining Hot Belly Mama’s, where our family traditionally dines each visit on Cajun — go for the hush puppies, catfish, and bruschetta as starters, then the Kansas City ribs with sweet potato fries and jambalaya or caesar salad as sides.

At The Olde Stone next door, be sure to start with the ale and cheddar soup, or the tomato and garlic soup. The fish and chips are among the best anywhere, the bangers and beans are also nifty, and child the younger gives two thumbs up to the turkey club.

Sigh.

Washed down, it goes without saying, with child the elder’s choice of Red Fife wheat ale, or ours of Olde Wilde Ale, named in honour of Oscar. What Oscar Wilde has to do with cajun food in a brick-walled restaurant festooned with authentic jazz posters from the 30s and 40s and maps of New Orleans isn’t clear, but who cares?

We’d better book our table for convocation in June.

I also got the opportunity to attend Trent’s reception for last year’s Academic All-Canadian scholar-athletes, the second time a planned visit has coincided. A neat evening with outstanding students, but lower-key than it could have been. It wasn’t just having nothing more than the little table of punch, cheese, and chunks of fruit, but the overall atmosphere for something that should have been more splendidly celebrated. The president’s absence could have been explained, and at least one coach received an invitation the day after the event.

Grumble.

Harumph.

And just to go all culturfied for a moment........The newly expanded and renovated Art Gallery of Ontario is magnificent. It’s now so huge, bright and spacious, especially the Canadian collection which takes up pretty much the entire second floor. Only a 10-minute wait to see King Tut, as awesome as the one I saw decades ago at the old AGO, but the AGO is worth the visit regardless whether there’s an extravaganza exhibit.

I lucked out in my flight plans, returning late on Friday night, the only evening that the Royal Ontario Museum is open late. Half-price, so expect big lines, but no wait at all to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, little scraps of incredible history more than 2,000 years old with the tiniest writing I’ve ever seen, and remarkable artifacts. But the ROM seems little changed from the exhibits I first saw in the 50s — the 1950s, thank you very much — despite that crystal thingee they stuck onto the side of the museum on Bloor.

And finally, on another topic......why is it that every time I see or read about Obama the last couple of days, I hear Pete Seeger singing, we’re waist deep in the big muddy, and the damn fool says to push on?

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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