Heavy rain and high winds during the night did nothing to lessen my impending sense of doom as I anticipate our rush hour journey back to Toronto. Luckily the worst of the weather has abated by the time we leave the site but the trip along the 401 is not one I shall be aiming to repeat. Our van is returned on time and found to be satisfactory. There have been times when I seriously doubted that we would get thus far unscathed. We have travelled 6663km, across four provinces in 22 days and stayed on 14 different sites (returning to two sites twice), it would have been 15 if one of those on the itinerary hadn‘t been closed. We used approximately 1600 litres of fuel, which cost us around $1600 or £800 – eat your heart out UK drivers!
Then began the wait for our courtesy bus to the hotel. Our chauffeur is a lovely chap from Jamaica but I do rather wish he a) wouldn’t turn round when he talks to us and b) that he wouldn’t gesticulate frequently, with both hands off the wheel. Then over 300 emails of the past few days to deal with as we unpack at Best Western, our home for the next three days; three days in one place will seem like luxury.
By lunch time enthusiastic Braund reunion attendees are foregathering in the foyer of the Best Western, many of these are people that we have not met before but it is, as usual, like a gathering of old friends. Braund matters are discussed until we have little voice left and the evening is spent in Mickele’s Restaurant, which is next to the hotel. The staff are not a bit bothered by catering for 32 people, who all want different dishes and who want to pay in twos and threes.
The next day is spent in a very pleasant church room in Toronto, with 55 Braund family members exchanging news and views, finding themselves on family trees and discovering connections. There were mini reunions within the reunion, with cousins meeting up for the first time in many years. Everyone was full of excitement and enthusiasm, listening to presentations and learning more about our shared history. Then off to a local restaurant to do what Braunds do best – eat.
A chance to catch our breath the following morning and then a coach ride for our party to go to Black Creek Village. This is another pioneer village, the former land of the Stong family who had Germanic roots and settled here in 1816, having come, along with many others, from Pennsylvania. Those of German origin were, in general, more welcome than the English, as they had the farming skills that were required. Keeping a party of Braunds together is a little like juggling jelly and Black Creek Village, whilst very interesting, does not win an award for super organisation. After some free time wandering, we somehow get our unruly crew into two groups for a tour of the village. We see several historical interpretations including the weaver who is using large balls made up of thin strips of material as her weft. The 36 inch wide, linen warp threads have taken two days to string up and a seven metre length of cloth would take several days to produce. Ladies would bring in their balls of material for weaving. The weaver would keep a quarter to make things to sell on as payment and the remainder would be woven up and returned to the owner. We learn that the weather was much harsher in the early nineteenth century; so warm clothing was essential. Climate change, urban smog and the felling of trees have all made a difference.
Volunteers for dressing up are called for – how could the Mistress Agnes in me refuse? Next we visit the printer’s workshop and then the doctor’s residence. Another party have been celebrating a wedding. Here’s is a tip: if you are going to have your wedding at a pioneer village take some alternative footwear as stilettos are not a total success. When we planned this weekend it was scheduled for the date we happened to be in Toronto; we had no idea it was Canadian Thanksgiving. Our scheduling meant that twenty five Braunds, from three continents, had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Black Creek Village. The staff did seem to have been to some bizarre alternative school of waitressing, whose technique involves a lot of pointing at the customers and asking the same question several times but otherwise all was fine. Just because we hadn’t eaten enough, in the evening we went up the road from the hotel for yet more food. A wonderful weekend with lovely people and I think the North Americans will certainly be getting together again.