Hub and I ventured out on Sunday afternoon to Cottage Country – to scope out houses, of course. Maybe a cottage? A house that feels cottage-y? Highway traffic going north was clogged about halfway up with vehicles off to the side so we took a detour up Yonge Street to a place called Friday Harbour. What a snooze-fest.
The developers have been flogging the property in the media for years, after winning an ugly protracted battle over local residents objecting to the urbanization of pristine shoreline and clear-cutting the old forest. The full-page ad in the weekend papers looked enticing, though. Unfortunately, reality was much less appealing. All we saw was signage and a huge tract of blowing subsoil. Nary a piece of construction equipment or a poured foundation for the glorious marina and clubhouse. My impression is that the developer is not getting the expected take-up of purchases and can’t afford to build.
The second one we saw in Orillia was a mid-rise condo by The Narrows. Nice building. Gorgeous views from the penthouse – until they put up the second building and obstruct half of the panorama. Decent sized layout with a wide balcony, but limited privacy from the units on either side and no sink in the laundry room. But with $800 a month condo fees on a half million dollar one bedroom + ‘den’ apartment by a ludicrously busy road on the way to Casino Rama, it was not an attractive proposition.
I’m in awe at the prices, even this far from Toronto. The real estate market is truly nuts.
The best part was our last stop in Gravenhurst at supper time. The first restaurant we looked at had a pork chop ‘special’ for $40. Um, so it came from a heritage pig. I wasn’t about to pay for his pedigree. The tea shop was closed and the other option was Boston Pizza. I wasn’t too happy about that because the last meal I had at our local BP many years ago was awful. But the place is right on the water and we were hungry so I capitulated. The food actually wasn’t that bad for a chain and by the time we left at 6:30, the lineup of hungry folks was out the door.
What made the last stop the best stop? Being back in Gravenhurst. I learned to swim in Gull Lake. I learned to row a leaky wooden boat and pilot a motorboat and water-ski (but slalom was beyond me).
When I was 15, I worked as a mother’s helper for a woman whose mother knew my mother in Beamsville. My two charges were a little red-headed girl and her older blonde brother. I remember that they were adopted, but can’t recollect their names. The family was from Toronto. I remember the woman was called Micki. Her husband, who looked like a stereotypical accountant, worked in town during the week and drove up on weekends.
Micki had a few memorable habits. She sauteed chicken breasts in a pound of butter. Chicken breasts to a poor kid were better than candy. And butter instead of margarine? Heavenly. She also liked to parade around naked. Butt naked. Inside, outside. Remember, I was a convent-school innocent who’d never looked at her own body parts, never mind anyone else’s. Talk about ‘in your face’. It took me a while not to cringe away and squeeze my virginal eyes shut.
During the week, Micki also liked to entertain an older man called Howard who lived down a rutted dirt road farther up the lake. Now Howard was not into total nudity, despite Micki trying to tug his pants down from time to time. He was not visiting the cottage to do renovations or yard maintenance — he was there to service the lady of the house. Every day he’d appear just before lunch time. We’d all sit and eat sandwiches at the picnic table by the dock then he’d hand me a five dollar bill. That was my cue to pile the kids in the rowboat, tie on our life jackets and row into town for ice cream. Sunscreen? Pah! Hats, maybe, but no shoes and no shirts. I was skinny back then but boy, did I muscle up over those two summers. Standing on the public dock yesterday, I gazed up the lake and realized that I’d rowed a great distance – from beyond the tree line near the top of the photograph – almost every day for the two months of summer holidays.
I finally clued in to what they were up to one day when it began to storm. I had the good sense to turn back early and caught them in flagrante right on the dock. Micki couldn’t have cared less. The next day Howard slipped me a twenty dollar bill. Yeah! Book money. He never touched me, though. If I’d been larcenous, maybe I could have hit him up for more hush-money.
The silvery grey water and moody sky look much the same, although the waterfront has been redeveloped and people have built mega-cottages along the shoreline. But when I narrowed my line of sight and blocked out the roar of the landing float plane and the buzz of personal water craft, I was cast back to 1960. God, those were days special – full of innocence and wonder. And ice cream.