George Graham

I Never Really Got to Florida

There’s no snow of course, but we’ve had some rain here in Lakeland over the past few days. And it’s cold. Cold to me, anyway. The wind was bitter yesterday evening, and the temperature dipped into the 40s overnight.

Still, those of you peeking out from under your parkas in places like London, Ontario might think the weather in Lakeland today is balmy.

I just checked and the temperature as I write this blog is 61 degrees. It’s supposed to get to 74 by day’s end. For you Celsius folks, it’s about 16 degrees now with an expected high of about 23.

Tomorrow will be nicer. The high is supposed to top 80 degrees (27¬† Celsius).¬† Now, that’s the kind of weather I came to Florida to find.

It has been a mild winter so far, even for Central Florida. Most of December was sunny and warm. But we’ve hit a bumpy patch. The high on Monday, when I’m supposed to play golf, is expected to be under 70 degrees, for example. With showers! And the predicted low is a bone chilling 34.

After that horror, we expect a Chamber of Commerce spell, with highs in the low eighties and high seventies for several days.

I keep telling Sandra I’m moving to Florida to get warm. For this wasn’t the Florida I had in mind when I shed my galoshes 35 years ago and pointed the Pontiac’s nose south on the 401, with the Toronto skyline disappearing¬† in my rear-view mirror.

I was thinking of white sands and bathing beauties… frozen concoctions in tall glasses topped by tiny umbrellas… the sound of the surf and the rhythms of the Caribbean …

But, apparently, that Florida is reserved for the Cadillac class, not those of us who drive Pontiacs.

To tell the truth, my Florida has been a lot like Canada.

Not the weather of course. The lifestyle.

Looking back on my life, most of my time in Florida, Canada, even Jamaica and Haiti, has been spent with my nose to the grindstone, looking out some office window and dreaming of those sun swept beaches.

That’s the tropical paradise tourists experience – tourists and beachcombers. Not those of us who are making a living.

And that’s what most of us do with our lives – make a living. Everything else is incidental.

By the time we retire, we’re stuck in a rut we’ve dug for ourselves over the years, limited in our choices by the decisions involved in making a living.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, as Jimmy Buffet observed. But not where most of us spend our lives – whether we live in Lakeland or Toronto. To us, the white sand beaches and tropical breezes exist in Margaritaville, but not wherever we are.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for