One of the Tri-Towns, directly between Cobalt and New Liskeard and about a fifteen-minute drive along Highway 11B from each. It's a very pretty little town right on the edge of Lake Temiskaming, with a lot of very nice, very big houses left over from Cobalt's boom days; sort of an early suburb. The Haileybury School of Mines is, I understand, world-reknowned (seriously). The town is also trying to make a go as a retirement community; if you can live with Northern Ontario winters, I think it'd be an excellent small town to retire to.

It used to have a high school of its own, Cobalt-Haileybury High School. People in my class during my last year of public school in Temagami were surprised I didn't choose to go there: after all, it had its own astronomy club and course, complete with telescope, and I was a geek. CHSS was a great deal smaller than New Liskeard Secondary School though, and I wanted to join the big leagues. In my last year of high school the two were merged; I'm sure there's poetic something or other somewhere in that.

I have a lot of very fond memories of Haileybury, because I lived there during that last year. Previous years had been spent either in Temagami, 60 km away, or away. This was the first time I lived close by my high school friends, and I made the most of it. My first girlfriend ever lived just up the street from me; for the first time, I was able to go to parties at friends' places; there was the Lions Club, where the girl I went to the prom with might have had a date, maybe, at her cousin's wedding; and there were some very fine nights spent down by the beach watching the lights of Quebec across Lake Temiskaming, or walking through the streets on winter nights, looking at houses and watching falling snow through the street lights. If it sounds idyllic, it's because it was.

About three years after that, I moved to London, England. London was the first place I'd lived in that didn't really have winter, and it was very strange for me to not need six layers of clothing from October through May.

One night in March or April I was walking to see friend of mine who lived in Notting Hill. I was living near Gloucester Road in South Kensington, so it was just the right length of walk -- long enough to feel like exertion, short enough to be enjoyable. I'd found a route through a very posh section of High Street Kensington (right by the Isreali embassy as I recall), and there were some really lovely homes. This particular night I was staring at my feet as I walked, mooning over the girl I was really going to see, when I happened to look up.

There were these big, flowering trees -- cherry trees, maybe -- all along the street, and I was in front of one of the biggest. The blossoms were white, in bunches the size of a big man's fist, and absolutely covered it. The petals were starting to fall, and the sidewalk was littered with them. On my right was a house, close to the sidewalk in the way that London houses (and, I suspect, most English houses) are, painted white. There was a streetlight behind the tree to complete the setting; you couldn't see the lamp itself, just the halo of light filtered through the blossoms.

The effect was absolutely magical, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. For a moment I was convinced that I was back in Haileybury, walking on a winter night, counting the minutes until my girlfriend was off work, straining to hear the snow fall.

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