I’m not so sure this qualifies as a Story Exchange story, however, I am including the traditional salutation anyway. Perhaps you alone will read this. Whatever, I just hope you enjoy this and are encouraged by it.
Last night, my wife had me take her to Indigos bookstore. She was on the hunt for a book for my daughter, written by her professor. My daughter is studying creative writing at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. As we walked in, the first book that caught my eye was your Vinyl Cafe Notebooks. I opened it and thumbed for a second or so, and then began to read the chapter on your visit to a quaint curling establishment in a very small Canadian town somewhere. I think you call the chapter In Praise of Curling.
Like so many people, the curling bug bit me during the Olympics here in Vancouver last year. I was watching at a church where they had several screens in the sanctuary. Yes, I was watching, but, it was just another sport to me, that is, until someone sat down in front, turned around and said “I was just talking to that fellow over there and he was explaining a bit about this game, there is a lot of strategy to it.” So, I watched a bit more intently. Then it happened, I was bitten. It was the Canadian women playing and suddenly, this was the most amazing game. Note just because of the women.
In the following days and weeks, I met so many people who either were also bitten during the Olympics, had played in the past, or currently played. It was a fantastic world opening before my eyes.
My family moved to Canada from the U.S. in the mid-sixties. Both my parents were originally from Canada. I remember my dad watching curling at my aunt’s house and howling with laughter as the players used those old floppy corn husk brooms to sweep the stones down the ice. When we moved here, we joined a country club, started by curlers. There were eight sheets, plus other sports, but, I remember just how many people there were carrying brooms and wearing curling sweaters.
Well, to my fortune, I managed to keep my membership and when they offered a new curling workshop last year, I jumped. My family wondered why I was interested in such a ‘silly’ game and ridiculed me. I discovered that it is really harder than it looks, but, truly fun. However, the curling season is not very long and, I no sooner did the workshop, when the Spring Thaw was announced. I would have to wait until next year to become a curler.
The club used to boast a roster of around 600 curlers today has about 80. Half of the eight sheets have rink boards to make a smaller ice skating rink to accommodate the overflow from the large rink. Curlers have to contend with the comparatively barbaric sport of hockey right next door. On weekends, they take all the curling ice for skating. On Monday mornings, they convert it back; making that ever precious pebbled curling ice.
This year, our club has been offering a Progressive Learn to Curl program. They could have called it Learn to Curl, but, I guess curlers just have to be a bit different. My wife promptly stated that I was not going alone and became a reluctant participant. Now, she is beginning to experience and learn just how nice and wonderful these curling people really are. The other night she made a wonderful shot. The lady after her made the exact same shot and bumped my wife’s rock out. Nobody was sore on our team, we were all simply amazed. In curling anything can happen, even two beginners doing pro shots. But, that’s just the sort of thing you explain.
Curling is not even close to death at our club. They are always having some sort of event and social after. From Spookspiel to the upcoming Turkey Shoot, the committee is still very active. In January, they will reform the teams to welcome the 32 new curlers from our Progressive Learn to Curl Program. One day, we may even take back the ice that the skaters and hockey players have taken.
Stuart, your chapter on curling and the warm, idyllic place you describe, is excellent. A unique game, a unique place. It made me want to go find it. I found myself so glad that I had discovered this amazing sport and now can wear a badge with my name, the club logo and the word ‘curling’ on it.
I have been listening to the Vinyl Cafe for years now. These days, I usually keep current through the podcasts. I don’t know how you do it. Travel endlessly back and forth over this huge country and, when you arrive somewhere, no doubt tired, and while your colleagues rest, you bound off to find the sights and sounds, meet the town folks, collect stories—just plain bath in Canadian culture.
If there is anyone who knows what Canada is, who a Canadian is, what it means to be Canadian, it must be you. You tirelessly promote all that is Canadian and even to other countries. Something has to be done abut this.
I propose the first ever Annual Stuart Awards and you as the first recipient. This award should recognize those who help grow Canadian culture and promote it in an unbiased, non-political way. Your team does such a good job with the Arthurs, could they manage the Stuarts as well.
So, Stuart, all this crossed my mind as I wandered through the rows of books at Indigos last night, waiting for my wife. Then, I saw another stack of your book. A couple of stacks away from another familiar face, your mentor, Peter Gzowski, whose show Morningside on CBC I remember so well from days gone by.
Thank you Stuart!
Wednesday night has been our curling night. After our curling lesson, my wife and I go into the club’s Panorama Lounge to eat $0.25 wings and listen to guitar player/singer Geoff Gibbons. He has been playing around here for years, but, is now getting into writing movie soundtracks. He might be a worthy guest on the VC show someday.