I have come to like Vancouver over the years. This implies that it took a while, which is true. The scenery is superb; everyone who arrives in the city for the first time, and finds it nestling at the edge of the ocean, with wide and interesting inlets and river mouths pushing crooked shapes into the coastline, with the mountains lifting around it – everyone is dumbstruck by the scenery. But I think it is never scenery that makes a place. People are just as happy in all kinds of places of lesser beauty – Yellowknife, Churchill, the edge of the Sahara, Reykjavik (although less happy there, right now). It is always the people that make a place, the people and how they create a life there. And over the years I have come to know more people in Vancouver, and come to know how they have made corners of their city special, distinct from any other city – the same sense of character and distinctiveness that you find in all memorable cities.
We were in Vancouver on Wednesday night for our annual Alumni reception. The turnout was fantastic, including alums from 2008 all the way back to 1938. A picture in the April issue of School Ties will show the smiling crowd. At these occasions we see alumni who are old friends – those who really sustain their connection to the school, and find satisfaction in remaking that connection every year, and catching up with old friends. There are always a few groups who have “facebooked” some friends to make a night of it; they always add some noise and conviviality to the night. And then there are those who haven’t made the connection for years, perhaps even ten, twenty or thirty years. These individuals in particular are wide-eyed, dumbstruck in their own way at this scene, and almost always in the grip of a swirl of emotion as various pieces of the past tumble down on them like a waterfall. After all, the time spent at school is an incredibly formative time, of intense personal discoveries and relationships, and to re-associate oneself with those bright or dark days can involve the unearthing of some unexpected and perhaps forgotten experiences. What impresses me always, though – and it did on Wednesday night – was the depth of interest among everyone in the school’s future. After all, one imagines that everyone comes to this event to relive the past in some way – to see old friends, to rekindle some old sentiments, to bask in a faded light – yet the overwhelming message I take away is how engaged these men and women are in the school’s future.
So we felt good as our float plane climbed into the air to return to the harbour in Victoria (I, my wife, Joan, and John Davies, President of the school’s foundations, who oversees our fundraising efforts). Our spirits fell, however, when – halfway across the Georgia Strait between Vancouver and Victoria – the pilot turned back because Victoria harbour was fogged in. Both John and I had a full morning of appointments waiting. As soon as we landed, John was on his phone trying to book us on a flight with Pacific Coastal, and I got onto Air Canada. We both got through pretty quickly, and Air Canada won, with the earlier, and cheaper flight. Once again our spirits lifted. I made my eleven o’clock meeting with a committee that is organizing an event around the School’s vision on April 2 – another uplifting hour.
My next trip to Vancouver is on Saturday, to go to a Vancouver Canucks hockey game, a birthday present of my son, Graham, who lives in Vancouver. Lucky thing I have come to like Vancouver.