Monday, December 31, 2018

Last Hours of 2018

This morning began more energetically than most. Seeing what I imagined was a slight stain on the bathroom sink mat, after my shower I gathered it up together with whatever other bathroom and clothing textiles were at hand and threw them into the laundry tub. This seemingly small act of gusto was in fact a triumph of planning because in this old condominium building the washer and dryer are communal for each floor. One is never assured to have free rein of the devices.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Getting close!

What began this morning as a potential metamorphosis has dissolved entirely. Briefly our vagabond spirit had us tramping about the globe to places unknown, from Asia to the South Pacific to the Mayan Riviera and the Caribbean. The realities of geographic restyling are we've discovered not without their sobering elements. More to the point, after a day of bicycling, lounging by the pool and the sea, swimming in the pool and the sea, walking on the beach, collecting some extremely agreeable cooked salmon and beef filets at the grocery store and glancing at the setting sun over the vast Gulf of Mexico, we've succeeded to renew our prodigious inclination for Longboat Key.

Saturday, December 29, 2018


Origin and meaning of salt (n.)

Old English sealt "salt" (n.; also as an adjective, "salty, briny"), from Proto-Germanic saltom (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Gothic salt, Dutch zout German Salz), from PIE root sal-"salt."

Modern chemistry sense is from 1790. Meaning "experienced sailor" is first attested 1840, in reference to the salinity of the sea. Salt was long regarded as having power to repel spiritual and magical evil. Many metaphoric uses reflect that this was once a rare and important resource, such as "salt of the earth" (Old English, after Matthew v.13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be "above the salt" (1590s) refers to customs of seating at a long table according to rank or honour, and placing a large salt-cellar in the middle of the dining table.

The Dead Sea – bordering Israel, the West Bank and Jordan – is a salt lake whose banks are more than 400m below sea level, the lowest point on dry land. Its famously hypersaline water makes floating easy, and its mineral-rich black mud is used for therapeutic and cosmetic treatments at area resorts. The surrounding desert offers many oases and historic sites.

Friday, December 28, 2018

December Haze

The sky today was uninspiring.  For most of the afternoon the ceiling was overcast and sometimes hazy as the sun struggled to blaze through the mosaic of quilt-like clouds. It was a pensive day accordingly. Though there were people on the beach their purpose resounded more of determination than gratification.  So many people here for the Christmas holiday (especially school and university children) have a limited window to capitalize upon their southern sojourn. For me it was an opportunity to escape what is normally the compelling and overwhelming allure of the weather and instead aimlessly to ponder without further intention or interruption.

Thursday, December 27, 2018


A well-known adage unfailingly percolates when entering upon a conversation about breakfast; namely, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. An equally apt dictum to occasion of any repast is that the best sauce for any meal is an appetite. I believe both are correct - not because of some complicated theory of nutrition or palate but because one becomes naturally hungry after eight hours of sleep. This elemental component of voracity - like almost anything else for that matter - is nonetheless propelled by attributes of distinction. Such was my plate this morning.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tough Times

A wedding song we played for you,
The dance you did but scorn.
A woeful dirge we chanted, too,
But then you would not mourn.

We've all heard the quip about the similarity between weddings and funerals and how they succeed to bring people together. The same may be said about Christmas.  Christmas reignites an interest particularly in young people. Though I turned 70 years old in December and I shall shortly be officially retired from the practice of law for a full five years, I haven't completely lost touch with or excluded myself from the present.  Nor its projection upon the future. As I contemplated the destiny of my two young nieces (in their early thirties) it made me recall some details of my past.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

As a child I invariably arose from my bed on Christmas morning no later than 3:00 am.  Sometimes even earlier.  I may have awoken my sister at the same time.  In either case I tip-toed down the stairs to see what was under the Christmas tree. Once I recall having found a model wind-up German race car which I immediately took into the kitchen and propelled around the linoleum floor.  The car was a silver coloured landau with a rubber snout. I believe it was particularly well made.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve 2018

For most of the years that we've lingered in southern climes for Christmas Eve - something I'm guessing we've been doing for over twenty years - there hasn't been much by way of topical endorsement. There may have been one or two occasions when we did something extraordinary (though I can't recall anything precisely). As my father was wont to say, "Every day is Christmas" - by which he successfully combined a presumption of pervasive pleasure and an excuse to ignore the event entirely. Frankly I believe we share the prosaic synopsis, not because of its lethargy but because of its accuracy. Capturing once again a parental quip, my mother's observation seems apt; namely, "What's not to like!"  Generally speaking the locale has said it all.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Sounds of Christmas

A  Certificate of Baptism dated February 13, 1949 signed by Minister J. Arthur Forbes, St. Paul's Church at Fredericton, New Brunswick stipulates that I was baptized according to the Order and Doctrine of the United Church of Canada. Presumably it was my father's religion of choice - even though my mother was a Roman Catholic whose parents I understand strongly disapproved of her marrying a Protestant - much less an Englishman. Her parents reputedly refused to attend my parents' wedding - or at the very least to submit to entering the Protestant Church (Grace United Church, Lachine, Quebec) where it took place on May 29, 1948 witnessed by my bawdy godfather Sqd. Ldr. H. Cail Vinnecombe of 426 Squadron in Dorval, Quebec and my father's wacky sister Audrey Kitchen married to my equally eccentric Uncle Herb, entrepreneur and art dealer. Parenthetically the date of marriage intrigues me because I was born less than nine months later on December 11, 1948. I have always heard it touted that I was born two months prematurely, a possible (though highly doubtful) fiction which I have nonetheless happily employed to excuse my native impatience. The further extrapolations are endless, including for example why my father so willingly condoned my own subsequent withdrawal from engagement to be married to a woman. Less favourably I project a theory of his seeming intolerance of me.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Season's Greetings!

Years ago when I regularly began spending Christmas closer to the equator rather than looking out a window at a snow covered backyard, I marvelled at the seemingly preposterous habits of the locals - decorating the grills of their cars with red balls or entire wreaths; wooden reindeer frolicking next to the palm trees; people wearing Santa Claus hats; or just about anything else which seemed more appropriate for a winter scene than one with a white sandy beach.  Yet the allure of Christmas in almost any image is impossible to escape. Something penetrates the heart and awakens the soul. We need only remind ourselves of the trip across the desert on Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Midwinter - December 21st, 2018

We're far enough south that on the day of the winter solstice we can anticipate an improvement of not only the length of sunlight but also the weather (which is to say the temperature). The past twenty-four hours have been a blustery beginning to "the season". Earlier I tried bicycling but turned back when the sun suddenly disappeared and sheets of rain began. It was all over within minutes - by which time I had made it back to the property - so I parked myself in a beach chair by the sea and watched and listened to the rollicking waves.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

What an odd day!

Christmas is always a time to reunite with friends. The hysteria of the moment alerts one to the pressing need to do so. There isn't much else going on apart from the social ambitions - or perhaps it is the regret at avoiding or missing out on them. I haven't any such contrition, never have.  Every Season I attack the imperative with gusto and fulfill whatever magic I am capable of executing (including gifts, wreaths, floral arrangements, cards and whatever other accessories catch my eye during aimless rambles throughout the glittering merchant outlets). Christmas is highly charged for me!

Thus invigorated I called Vancouver.  "My mother died mid-September at 99", he told me.  At last - I thought - but instead said, "My sympathies". To which he replied, "Someday I have to tell you the full story.  But not now."

There are exceptions to this saccharin mysticism. Yet the so-called inescapable realities shouldn't be cause for dissolution. The New Year will soon remind us all that Time is running out; and that the object is not to perpetuate but relish. It behooves us to extract what flavour we can.  The challenge isn't preposterous purity but rather intelligent absorption.

How comical it is to be surprised by the serendipity of life - as though our perception of anything were other than topical. The coincidences of life are not by chance or luck! They are the very composition of our essence! Though we haven't a shred of control of providence we mustn't pretend to limit its anatomy.

Often I have been reminded of the unpredictable nature of life - the unpleasant and the pleasant. Surely there is no profit in elimination! Neither should we suffer the persuasion of intemperate consolation. The better resolve is the only one that is possible in any event, just keep going and hope for the best!  And leave the pettiness behind; it'll only haunt you in the end.

“Quickly, as if she were recalled by something over there, she turned to her canvas. There it was—her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.”

Excerpt From: Woolf, Virginia. “To The Lighthouse.” Public Domain

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Precision, precision, precision

Lorient is a seaport and fishing harbour in the Morbihan region of Brittany in Northwestern France, part of the enclosed sea that is the principal feature of the coastline. It is noted for its Carnac stones which predate and are more extensive than the ancient Stonehenge monument in Wiltshire, England. Lorient is also home to the family owned business called "Plastimo" created in 1963 by Antoine Zuliani with 35 employees.  Today the brand claims its industrial DNA as "safety and compasses for enjoyable boating". In 2013 the company celebrated its 50th anniversary and the 3 million compass milestone. Today I bought the Iris 50 hand-bearing compass made by Plastimo, appropriately balanced for "Zone A-B: Northern Hemisphere, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Central Pacific, Tahiti and Reunion Island". Plastimo's compass products have been described as "jewels of precision and accuracy".

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas Letter December 2018

My late father was not what I would call particularly sentimental, at least not overtly.  In fact he tended to be otherwise - more tranquil and unemotional, no doubt a reflection of his regimental military background (and the fact that to my knowledge he never drank a drop of alcohol - unless one counts my mother's "Dizzy Fruit" as he called it, a concoction of pears, peaches and other fruits drenched in sugar and a liberal portion of cognac or some similar preservative).  He did however succumb to the magic of Christmas in his own special way. Though I can't recall him ever having bought a Christmas present for anyone in the family he nonetheless displayed his magnanimity by rolling up dollar bills of varying denominations in Christmas wrapping, tied up with a small coloured bow then randomly hung upon the Christmas tree. The custom was the cause of occasional concern as he or others attempted to recapitulate the total number of "gifts" to ensure that none was lost in the accumulating paper debris arising from the other gifts opened throughout the course of the Christmas morning ceremony.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why bother?

There are some for whom evangelism of any measure or purpose is an utter affliction, this in spite of the strength or universality of the intended communication. The bible - notwithstanding its poetic use of metaphor - seldom fails to makes its point. This does not however imply that the cloak of design is entirely without uncertainty.  Take for example the expression from Matthew 7:6.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,
neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet,
and turn again and rend you.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Key West Express

On Monday morning at 7:00 am on December 10th, 2018 we boarded the Key West Express (a sea-going catamaran) in the harbour of Fort Myers Beach and headed for Key West, Florida. It is marketed as a 3½ hour journey across the Gulf of Mexico. We were in for a nautical awakening. There is very little of man's creation which competes with the vastness and power of the sea.  Our education was about to begin.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Idle Reflection

I am a shameful creature of habit (a classic bore I am sure made all the more offensive by my wackadoo commitment to its endless reiteration).  Mid-afternoon each day - following my morning routine of restorative ablutions, a predominantly protein breakfast (ham, eggs and American cheese), strong black coffee and bicycling - I collapse on a chaise longue by the pool and allow my mind to reflect idly upon what I've contemplated throughout the prior three hours, always stimulated by the burnishing rays, dry heat and changing sounds of the Gulf of Mexico. It is a summary exercise which frankly seldom succeeds to do anything more than repeat tiresomely what I have thought time and again. I nonetheless persist in what I choose to fashion an investigative analysis with possible improving consequences (also highly unlikely).

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Preparing to leave

After getting my hair cut by (big) Michael at The David Gregory Salon sharply at nine o'clock this morning I hurried home to change into my togs for bicycling. By local accounts it was a frosty day - only about 55℉ - so I put on my fleece shell and black woollen socks - only to remove them both an hour later when I reached Bradenton Beach at the southern end of Anna Maria Island.  By then the sun was uncomfortably warm on my back. The sky was crystal blue.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Visit to the Dentist

Relocating residence for six months entails somewhat more than transporting the common baggage. While you certainly needn't bring every wristwatch or other article of jewellery with you (though I confess to having brought studs and links) nor obviously any of one's favourite rugs, lamps, crystal or furnishings, there are nonetheless other matters to be taken care of - things like hair cuts, manicures and pedicures, oil changes for the car, bike rentals, clothing and shoe stores and dental hygiene.  Hopefully one needn't become too familiar with the Emergency department of the local hospital. Nor have to acquaint oneself with the preferred ambulance, trauma or collision centre. The point is that many of life's prosaic needs continue to persist wherever you are. Today for example we visited a dentist because (speaking for myself anyway) my addiction to strong, black coffee is as usual discolouring my teeth from an acceptable ivory to that approaching mahogany.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Murky Day

We're caught in a fog. Behind the soupy map the yellow orb blazes. I count the hours awaiting the evidence of change, the details of compliance.  I have no patience. But I have done all that is possible to complete the transactions (perhaps even more than I should have done). For now my preoccupation is in abeyance. I won't pretend to disregard what is anticipated! But for the moment at least I shall put down the trowel.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nec Plus Ultra

Some things bear repeating. A morning coffee for example. And in my particular case, a bicycle ride. There is only so much novelty in any existence - barring perhaps the Crusades or some such extraordinary undertaking. It is quite proper - and indeed desirable - in my opinion to dwell upon the minutiae of everyday life, a posture which pointedly can only be achieved by the imposition of focus and habit. Appreciating the layers of experience demands the serenity of knowledge which accumulates with assiduity. It is wearing to become anxious about recurrence but this misses the delicacy of detail. Granted it helps being bound by a circle of perfection.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Saturday, December 1st

It is Saturday, the 1st day of December.  Though the temperature is 76℉ and there is a wind of 20 mph out of the south, I have turned off the air conditioner and opened the apartment balcony door and my bedroom window to delight in the refreshing late afternoon breeze. Autumn has incontestably ended. A sudden serenity marks the hibernation of the next six weeks before the season begins. Even the falling leaves on the bike path this morning were forlorn and withered. The dulled walkway wound lonesomely, its visage alternately changing beneath the grey sky or the dappled sunshine. The day is a sandwich of events blending into one sensible impression highlighted today by the rollicking mixture of sun and clouds, high wind and thrashing waves on the beach, and the violent tumult of the beating heads of palm trees. The dry relieving air hints of a turbulence on the horizon. It is only 5 o'clock but already the shadows upon the tiled rooftops are long. A narrow shard of light crosses the crowns of the giant ferns in the distance. Winter is coming.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Buyer Beware

Over the space of the last 70 years (my entire life) I have owned 25-acres of vacant rural land, a small residential house in an old part of Town, a large residential house in a new part of Town, a condominium and parking space in a trendy urban centre and a heritage building with four units (two residential, two commercial). Though I've owned more real estate and had more headaches for doing so than most people I know, I am seldom if ever asked my opinion on the subject. If I were asked, my unadulterated thesis is this: rent; don't buy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sunny and Cool

The real Floridians wore coats this morning.  Parkas! The weather today was sunny and cool. It's currently 57℉ which is about 40° lower than it was a month ago! When I went for my morning cycle I had on a light hoodie over my Polo shirt, all topped by a Patagonia Synchilla® fleece pullover. I also wore some very comfortable Wigwam woollen socks. I didn't feel in the least overdressed.  In fact when I passed a determined (pale) jogger wearing only a T-shirt and shorts I felt decidedly Floridian by comparison. I speculated that he had only recently landed on the island, intent upon milking the experience for what he had likely anticipated to be a warmer menu. For my part it was an agreeable state. The sun still burnished my face despite the cool northern air.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Back at it!

The three commercial parties with whom I have been speaking in the past month - the banker, the financial advisor and the accountant - have all proven themselves remiss.  Given my high standard of diligence it is perhaps unfair of me to label them slipshod. But after practicing what I preach for about 40 years I am not prepared to capitulate. As usual the coaxing of dispatch demanded some prodding - and a reminder that previous promises, howsoever casual, were left unattended. Naturally I have assuaged their heedlessness by asserting on their behalf a myriad of reasons for delay - whether my own compulsiveness or relative unimportance, their overwhelming preoccupation, possible family and health concerns, etc.  I confess I hadn't anticipated the legitimacy of a power outage (as one party complained) but neither do I excuse the apparent incapacity to communicate a rationale for the protraction. What is more evident is the customary disclosure that there is no real reason for the inadequacy.

Monday, November 26, 2018

December Sun

The winter solstice unremittingly approaches. The alteration affects even this sub-tropical barrier island at 28° latitude. The late afternoon sky today was blurred by a chalky grey.  No fluffy white cumulonimbus clouds against an azure backdrop. The green palm trees and sea grape bushes were oddly more manifest, as though filtered.  The nautical blue stripe of the spa contrasted brilliantly with its emerald green water and circular white concrete rim. In the distance the Gulf of Mexico was a mournful plate.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

What ever happened to...

Soooooooooooooo many thanks for the great e mails ... Eileen and I love getting them ... cold up here but to rain this weekend … go figure ... snow on driveway ... ploughed once ... Robbie just got new car … so excited ... old guy still driving a 1998 dodge ram 1500 pick up ... but ... you know how it is ... older people trudge on ... young people 100 mph straight ahead ... good for them ... sweety and me been in this old house 44 yrs ??? I think Bill you helped close this property from my dad and then Lockharts ... remember … bank on Margret's ass ... many thanks Bill ... long time eh??? dad thought the world of you and Raymond Jamieson … and Donny Johnson ??? salt of the earth ... where do you find that ... now ??? world going 1000 miles per hour ... no one has a true friend anymore ... you helped dad and me... and Eileen through many probs ....  Bill cannot express our thanks ... just memories now eh??? had too many beers Bill ... but for always a true friend .... hope you and Dennie ... enjoy your time ... to hell with world affairs ... its all screwed up ... so just carry on ... and enjoy ... your old friends in Almonte Bobby and Eileen

Friday, November 23, 2018

Arvo Pärt - "Te Deum"

My introduction to Arvo Pärt was about 7 - 10 years ago, I don't recall the precise incident or the reason.  I suspect I just heard something he composed (probably the "Te Deum") and was irrevocably drawn to it. His haunting music and near association with Finland instantly put me in mind of a white snowstorm. I imagined a grey clapboard house snowbound in a vast open space. I can still picture it. You would think this is hardly the material to coincide with Longboat Key.  But somewhere around two o'clock this morning as I lay in bed I was trolling the internet to see what I could find about Arvo Pärt whose name had arisen yesterday in a casual conversation I had at the hot tub with an American woman who has visited Finland (as have I).  I was pleased to discover that Helsinki, Finland is immediately above Estonia whence Pärt hails, adjacent the Baltic Sea (where I last sailed) and Sweden (where years ago my parents and sister lived and I visited). The woman in the hot tub has some relation who now lives in Stockholm, which is what sparked all this in the first place. Pärt's reputed connection to minimalist style and Gregorian chant reflects my predilection for Erik Satie and Thomas Tallis respectively. Everything connects.  As usual.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Day USA 2018

The atmosphere here today was typical of a Thanksgiving holiday - less traffic, grey skies and a sudden eruption of children everywhere. The occasion did not however impede my normal curmudgeonly schedule.  It was breakfast as always then bicycling.  Again today I made it to Longboat Pass bridge and back (about sixteen miles), a distance I had initially thought was beyond my scope after similar outings yesterday and the day before.  Apparently I am adjusting to the new limit (which formerly extended only half as far to the 5000 Block just past Bayfront Park).  We have succeeded to accommodate the familial absorption associated with this festive day by arranging to dine on Holmes Beach this evening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sapphire Blue

When I awoke shortly before 7:00 o'clock this morning the sun was shining brilliantly and the sky was patently crystal clear. I know this because I keep the shades of the bedroom window partially open (though I wear a mask to counter unwanted light when I sleep). It requires extraordinary effort to resist such pleasing daylight motivation! Though I momentarily attempted to bury myself below the duvet it was mere seconds before I succumbed to the better ambition.  I reasoned that it was early enough to appropriate the communal laundry facility to conduct my weekly cleanse of the bed clothes.  We inhabit one of those '70s condominiums built with shared washers and dryers on each floor. It's the only feature of the building which I find remotely annoying (though oddly reminiscent of my first apartment - then considered terribly modern - at Pestalozzi College in Ottawa after graduating from law school).

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Be true to your school

Epiphany can occur at the most unexpected moment. Today I had such a sudden realization. Looking back I should have been prepared for the manifestation, having already experienced since early this morning an uncommonly prolific euphoria in all that I embraced.  For example a hastily organized visit to our nail salon for what began as a mere manicure broadened to include a thoroughly relaxing pedicure and lower limb massage. Afterwards we put on the nosebag at our favourite breakfast joint - homemade oatmeal and fresh fruit followed by the perfect plate of eggs, bacon, sausage patties and American cheese. Then I went for what started as a routine bike ride and ended by traveling the seemingly effortless distance of eight miles to Longboat Pass bridge.

Down the Coast

Epiphany can occur at the most unexpected moment. Today I had such a sudden realization. Looking back I should have been prepared for the manifestation, having already experienced since early this morning an uncommonly prolific euphoria in all that I embraced.  For example a hastily organized visit to our nail salon for what began as a mere manicure broadened to include a thoroughly relaxing pedicure and lower limb massage. Afterwards we put on the nosebag at our favourite breakfast joint - homemade oatmeal and fresh fruit followed by the perfect plate of eggs, bacon, sausage patties and American cheese. Then I went for what started as a routine bike ride and ended by traveling the seemingly effortless distance of eight miles to Longboat Pass bridge.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Some other time...

Where has the time all gone to
Haven't done half the things we want to
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time

This day was just a token
Too many words are still unspoken
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time

Just when the fun is starting
Comes the time for parting
But, let's just be glad for what we had
And what's to come

There's so much more embracing
Still to be done but time is racing
Oh well, we'll catch up some other time

Some Other Time by
Songwriters Julie Styne/Sammy Cahn

Some Other Time

Friday, November 16, 2018

Cool Day

It was 65℉ out-of-doors before eight o'clock this morning. When I began my bicycle ride 2½ hours later, I was in a tunnel of cool wind from the north. For the first time in a month I sported a light charcoal sweater over my stripped blue and white golf shirt.  Not long into the ride - still hidden from the sun in an emerald shade by the giant sea grape bushes - I contemplated turning back to collect a heavier sweater.  And socks.  But the dry, cool air and the cerulean blue sky spurred me along.  All the way to the end of the barrier island where it meets the Longboat Pass bridge to Bradenton Beach.  Approximately eight miles I am informed. The 3' elevation above sea level makes for an easy ride.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Cloudy Day

I asked him if he ever wished to write his thoughts. He said that he had read and written letters for those who could not, but he never tried to write thoughts—no, he could not, he could not tell what to put first, it would kill him, and then there was spelling to be attended to at the same time!"

Excerpt From: Henry David Thoreau. “Walden"

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Walk on the beach

The beach on the Gulf of Mexico is little more than 100 feet from the side door of the condominium apartment building where we reside. Oddly it was only today that I lingered on the beach for more than a few moments.  After having spent several hours this morning by the pool, sunbathing and swimming, I opted to go for a walk on the shore this afternoon. I directed myself southerly towards The Resort at Longboat Key Club which is nestled at the lower tip of the barrier island. It was there - less than a year ago - that we first visited Longboat Key and thus initiated our more prolonged winter sojourn here this year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Special Numbers

It won't be esteemed a misfortune or wasteful ambition to hope for the life of a gentleman, not a nobleman or a superior being of mere social status, but rather one who through a degree of learning and the application of god-given intelligence qualifies as an acceptable feature to humanity. The object is not the approbation of others but rather the satisfaction of having done the best one can with what one has. Lately I have read what others consider the manual for that attainment.  I prefer not to advance my own theory (if indeed I presume to have one).  Instead it pleases me to reminisce about the special numbers which have affected me from time to time, those slight moments of delight that provoke fond thoughts regarding the sometimes miserable history of my particular being and personal demonstration.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Morning Ritual

It wasn't the catharsis of a worship service which propelled me on my bicycle this Sunday morning to Bradenton Beach on the southern part of Anna Maria Island. Indeed I marvel that in spite of the lack of spiritual impetus I made it that far, I'm guessing about seven miles one way. No doubt it was naught more poignant than an uncommonly restful sleep last night. In any event by this accident of nature I have now completed my absorption of the various societal channels on Longboat Key, end to end.  The southern portion (where we reside) has frequent nautical themes (Privateer, Yardarm, Harbour Point, Aquarius Club, Neptune, Seahorse Beach, Pelican Harbour); the northern portion has a Spanish element (Laguna, de Narvaez, Juan Anasco, Reclinata, Casa del Mar). The social shift from south to north is likewise apparent, fewer gated communities and residences (though as many prominent seaside mansions) and more (though perpetually moderate) commercial activity.  If one were to progress to Holmes Beach (the centre municipality of Anna Maria Island) the popular vernacular is instantly apparent.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Up and at it!

We keep odd hours.  This morning for example (and this account is by no means singular) we were stripping the beds and doing laundry soon after 4:00 am. By the same token I owe it to observe that in the evenings we are customarily in our virginal lairs by no later than ten o'clock, often earlier.  We generally eat only two meals a day - a substantial breakfast and an equally healthful dinner.  Lunch would be quite impossible.  But because we routinely exercise (bicycling and swimming) between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm, the two meals mark the compass points each day.

The Splendour of the Moment

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

 Excerpt from "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau

Friday, November 9, 2018

Blank Day

There was nothing on my diary today, nothing. The agenda was blank. It suited me fine.  Especially as the sky was absolutely clear; and there was a promise of 82℉. I had several filet of cooked Grouper in the fridge.  That and some Moon Drop grapes, sliced banana and black coffee made for an acceptable breakfast.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

First, we eat...

This morning after our mani and pedi we stopped at a dive just over the bridge from Longboat Key.   New Pass Grill & Bait Shop on Ken Thompson Parkway. It's a place we've seen a number of times before when cycling in the area - notable for its park and marine museum (Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to be exact) overlooking Sarasota Bay. New Pass Grill - like similar establishments here - has a clientele that includes in addition to tourists a goodly number of local contractors who apparently consider the fare quality for value.  It's not a place one necessarily lingers but it certainly satisfies the need for nourishment without any fuss. The trades around here are as ubiquitous as the interlopers, a visible testament to the commercial dependence of the two.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sub-tropical Evening

Anna Maria Island is just north of Longboat Key, about a thirty minute drive at the outside (and that at between only 25 - 45 mph). Basically the road clings to the Gulf of Mexico. The names of the roads are all variations on that theme - Gulf of Mexico Drive, Gulf Drive S, Gulf Drive N, Gulf Drive, N Shore Drive and round to N Bay Blvd and S Bay Blvd as it approaches Tampa Bay on the east side of the Island and redirects southerly. The haul from Longboat Key is through Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach both reminiscent of the best and worst of Key West and Coney Island and as a consequence with as much texture and buoyancy. Though these two old fogeys happily relinquish themselves to the tranquillity of Longboat Key, the temporary elevation of spirit was cheering.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Public Beach Access

Without having to investigate the constitutional legitimacy of public beach access on Longboat Key it is transparent that the right exists - sometimes adjacent the manicured porticoes of the coastal estates. The Gulf of Mexico Drive is the spine of this dwarfish barrier island. The view of the Gulf of Mexico on one side or of Sarasota Bay on the other is never long out of sight.


"Demagogue: a political leader in a democracy who gains popularity and seeks support by appealing to and exploiting popular desires, prejudice and ignorance among the common people rather than by using rational argument and reasoned deliberation; demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so; synonyms include rabble-rouser, agitator, soapbox orator, firebrand, fomenter, provocateur.

Demagoguery is the one fundamental flaw in democracy: because power is held by the people, it is possible for the people to give that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population. Demagogues usually advocate immediate, forceful action to address a national crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty. Modern demagogues include Adolf Hitler and Joseph McCarthy.  Techniques include scapegoating, fear mongering, lying, emotional oratory and personal charisma, accusing opponents of weakness and disloyalty, promising the impossible, violence and physical intimidation, personal insults and ridicule, vulgarity and outrageous behaviour, folksy posturing, gross oversimplification and attacking the news media."

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Saturday Morning Bike Ride

Though I had intended to be on my bicycle by mid-morning it was closer to noon before I had drained my restorative cup of java and succeeded to accomplish the prior necessities of a disquieting business matter, preparing and consuming a healthful breakfast (including what is now my passion - honeycomb imbued with the floral aroma of Georgia), washing the bed clothes and cleansing my carcass.  But the combination of a grand day and having surmounted a bothersome administrative issue lent the most desirable impetus to my ambition.  I swear my chronic arthritic condition is as much a psychological persuasion as physical. While I wasn't exactly boomps-a-daisy I nonetheless felt uncommonly buoyant as I peddled my way purposively to the north gate where I immediately connected to what I consider an unalloyed recreational path along the Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Let's do lunch!

“Her mind was as the landscape outside when dark beneath clouds and straitly lashed by wind and hail."

"The Voyage Out" by Virginia Woolf

Today on a stormy beach day we were provoked to foregather for lunch.  We hadn't any particular venue in mind. Each of us three liberally conceded unshackled choice to the others. Though after pondering what was available immediately on Longboat Key (always by definition a restricted diet) we agreeably settled upon Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub, 760 Broadway Street at the north end of the Key. It turns out to have been a hunky-dory selection.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How YOU doin'?

Years ago we maintained a condominium in the By Ward Market in Ottawa. One Saturday morning I was wandering about the colourful stalls looking for cheese and fruits when I encountered Horace on a similar shopping expedition. The "Market" was then - and continues to be - a popular social outing on the weekends.  Horace (who is a self-made multi-millionaire from Smiths Falls, Ontario) informed me that he and his wife Patti had just returned from Italy.  While there Horace ventured into a sailing yard and with the assistance of one of the workers learned that a three-storey private yacht from Texas was in dry dock for painting and cleaning, an enterprise which was anticipated to consume three months during which the crew of 75 lingered on shore. It was at this juncture that Horace looked coldly at me and queried, "Billy, where did we go wrong?"

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Oasis of Refreshment

As much as I might prefer to avoid the characterization of a hopeless addict, the frozen truth is that I am uncommonly comfortable with habit.  This is especially so when I have succeeded to adjust to conventions which I find both healthful and beautiful. In my present circumstances it is undeniable that the amenability of which I speak is no accident, a triumph which exponentially adds to both the pleasure and the propensity. Granted my congenital dislike of novelty buttresses what some might call my narrowness of practice. I on the other hand rationalize the foible as a ready willingness to embrace what by and large is a good thing - without the necessity to prosecute tireless alternatives and wistful objectives.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nemo dat quod non habet

Everyone has heard the quip about weddings and funerals, something to the effect that they both bring people together and afford an opportunity to reconnect. There is another less popular adage about funerals in particular; and that is the unspoken attention to the Will of the deceased, more specifically what if anything one will inherit. In the broad delineation of estate administration the over-riding consideration is captured in the maxim, "Nemo dat quod non habet" - that is, "No one gives what he does not have".

Saturday, October 27, 2018


"The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial."

"Carmen" an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet

More years ago than I can now safely recall - when I still qualified as a young man - I was introduced to the opera "Carmen".  My mentor - whose name I also shamefully forget - was appropriately either Italian or French. He may even have been from Montserrat, the multi-peaked mountain range near Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. I remember distinctly that he had an accent. He was visiting a mutual friend - my erstwhile physician - in Canada at the time. He was clearly captured by the opera.  While I wasn't able to identify the opera, there was at least one of the songs which was familiar to me. The introductory acquaintance shall forever remain impressed on my mind as an example of how I have been affected by what in retrospect I consider important.

Midnight Pass to Casey Key

We rallied briefly with our friends at their digs on Siesta Key then headed down the coast to a fish shack for lunch. The season is still not upon us and the traffic was tolerable as a result - though the tiny waterside restaurant, hidden among the subtropical trees along a dusty narrow road, was remarkably congested. And noisy with chatter and clatter. Seated on the deck above the water we strained to hear what one another said, bending our heads alternately in search of the sound waves, sometimes pretending to understand though not caring a damn, it was just too pleasant to confound the tide with detail.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Collection of Daily Anecdotes

Today's tales don't qualify as shaggy-dog stories but they are reminiscences, a sketch of life on Longboat Key. When traveling abroad there is an inclination to latch onto events which rise above the mundane occurrences of living. But with only infrequent exception that is precisely where the action is. It is besides these seemingly uninspiring episodes which provide the real fodder of account.

"Longboat Key is a town in Manatee and Sarasota counties along the central west coast of the U.S. state of Florida, located on and coterminous with the barrier island of the same name. Longboat Key is south of Anna Maria Island, between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

All is vanity

Given my advanced age, protuberant belly, heart by-pass and Pacemaker, it flabbergasts even me that I have anything surpassing the remotest regard for matters sartorial.  But apparently the "Preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem" knew of what he spoke (as related in Ecclesiastes 1). Astonishingly my curiosity concerning clothing extends beyond what is purely functional. I am certainly not yet confined to the irresolute quandary, "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" Instead I regularly find myself animated by garb especially as exemplified in the American vernacular. Evidently my interest is further promoted by the proximity of the sea, the balmy weather and the fragrant flowers.

Monday, October 22, 2018

So where do we stand?

At an uncertain juncture years ago I cultivated the all-consuming practice to recapitulate the entirety of my existence in order to assess what had transpired and where I was headed. While the fixation smacked of penitential dialect I privately considered it pragmatic in the same way one reviews a document before signing it. The summary and reiteration seldom embraced more than the currency of my being which, if I were to put a limit on it, captured only the predominant features of my life as then expressed. I never felt the exigency to re-evaluate my childhood agenda (if indeed I recalled any of it with accuracy); but the contemporary salient features of domesticity, productivity and foreseeability certainly mattered. My guess is that the obsession began 40 years ago when I opened my own law practice - an occasion which accentuated a multitude of disparate parameters that weighed upon my survival. That at least is my apology for the mania. The sobering collateral of this phobia is the admission that much of the detail was meaningless, a trajectory which I nonetheless fashion as a useful motivation to dwell instead only upon the present and what is pleasing. Perhaps the initial objective is the same in the end, being simply a justification. Let's face it, no amount of hindsight will do anything to change the past - though in fairness it may have a bearing on the future.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Nautical Theme

From the moment one crosses the bridge separating Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the John Ringling Parkway from Sarasota to the Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key there is an immediate nautical theme that insinuates the barrier island. The isolation of the island ensures the survival of this romantic narrative. From almost any perspective on the island the maritime tincture is inescapable. Even now as I write I hear the crashing waves.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

James Desmond ("Des") Houston, deceased (1933 - 2018)

Des Houston died on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018.  He was the former Clerk-Treasurer of the Town of Almonte, the former President of the Mississippi Golf Club and the former President of the Mississippi River Power Corporation. Those three hallmarks of association were for me and for many others the very foundation of the past, present and future of the area in which we all live.  If anyone were ever entitled to a showy send-off, it was he.  But typically for Des - and I have no doubt whatsoever that this happened entirely upon his unqualified instruction - there was no public service following his death.  That's just the sort of guy he was, exact and modest to a fault.

It's the little things that count

"Little things console us because little things afflict us."
Blaise Pascal

No matter how extravagantly one describes anything in life, in the end what matters most is the little things.  Very often it is those same whispers of contentment which go virtually unmentioned - not because they don't count but because it's almost impossible - or maybe even commonplace - to verbalize or quantify their distinguishing elements.  How for example do you portray in a meaningful way the delight of a morning bicycle ride in the yellow sunshine while sailing under a banyan tree and listening to cicadas and the shrill of a tropical bird?

The Caravan

The image which most people have of a caravan doesn't include a battalion of renegades intent upon destruction. Yet to listen to the words of many Republicans that is precisely what we're up against:

"The caravan of about 4,000 migrants from Central America seeking to enter Mexico and then the United States illegally is attempting to invade and attack the United States. This caravan attack is the right place to draw the line and say “no more.” Congress should come back and pass the laws that would enable Americans to re-establish the rule of law at the border and protect our country with dignity and authority. If you want to defend America, let your House member and senators know how you feel."

by Newt Gingrich/Fox News

Friday, October 19, 2018

Simple is good

After battling yesterday with acres of parking and endless retail stores at the astonishingly remote Mall at University Town Centre in Sarasota (Macy's at one end, Saks Fifth Avenue in the middle, Dillards at the other and everything in between) it was a welcome serendipity this morning while going for my untroubled constitutional bicycle ride along the Coast to discover a men's wear clothing boutique in a small shopping centre nearby on Longboat Key.  I had started by looking for a salon (which I also found in the same shopping centre and where I have booked an appointment). I am further informed that our proposed dental office is located not far from the Publix grocery store.  This means that the only obvious exception to the ready fulfillment of what we anticipate to be our customary needs while on Longboat Key is a Lincoln dealership.  Paradoxically I have already located a franchise on a mainland road parallel to my erstwhile physician's winter lodging on nearby Siesta Key.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dear John and Donna

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Longboat Key, Florida

Dear John and Donna,

It was but a week ago that we left home and headed south for the winter.  After an agreeable but sedulous 4-day road trip we have spent the past three days attuning ourselves to this ducky barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico. I won't pretend that I am not as exuberant about our choice as I was when we first casually visited it less than a year ago during our sojourn on Daytona Beach Shores. At the risk of sounding overly zealous I can honestly say that we are pleased as punch!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fish Shack

Not everything here has been without its rough edges - though admittedly the inconveniences have been paltry by most standards.  The refrigerator for example has been on the fritz since our arrival. Today the property manager sent a technician to look at it.  He messed with the innards and advised we leave the doors closed for the next 24 hours.  This meant we were obliged to dine out this evening. It turns out to have been a blessing in disguise.  We went to Mar Vista in Manatee County at the north end of the Island.

Bike Ride

It should not surprise me that my initial enthusiasm exceeded my subsequent capacity!  Granted riding the new bicycle was an instant thrill - but the moderately prolonged activity soon reminded me of the oppressive heat and my escalating age.  Whew!  Even on the sea level straightaways it was an engagement not for the pusillanimous. The superiority of the new bike over a normal rental number is unassailable. Once again the decision to purchase a bike this year instead of renting one exemplifies the high regard I have in general for this particular resort, consistent in my opinion with the top gear standards of everything else.

Your choice

I never tire of analysis. Properly done it affords what amounts to the purity of mathematical certainty - an elevation of domestic detail to axiomatic theory. As unsettling as the examination may be at the outset it eventually translates into relief, both understood and undeniable. It is the imposition of logic which demystifies the conundrum of life and makes living manageable. To preserve both my sanity and my direction I consider it imperative to minimize confusion by reducing the enquiry to elemental constituents. Initial broad strokes are therefore required.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Settling in

The drive yesterday (our fifth day of non-stop peregrination) from Lake City to Longboat Key was more lengthy and arduous than we had anticipated. As was the traffic.  It was a 3½ hour uneventful but speedy roller coaster ride southwest through the peninsula during which we competed with and darted among a plethora of anxious BMWs, transport trucks and Ford F-150s pulling commercial trailers and mobile homes. Luckily for us we had some prior acquaintance with the area when we arrived here so our settlement was not unduly burdensome.  After collecting our keys from the concierge and unloading the car we went directly to the grocery store.  The provisions we bought (with the capable assistance of Eddie in the aisles) included premium crab cakes and superlative fruits and vegetables.  When late last evening we finally put something on the table to eat it was worth the slog.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Geriatric Florida

This morning we began the last leg of our 4-day journey from Canada to Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico. South Carolina (where we hung our hat last evening) is a comparatively large State.  It was several hours before we had succeeded to drive out of it into Georgia whence the transition to Florida was a mere skip. It likely signals a descent into a decrepit state of mind that my awakening curiosity encircles birds and plants. I can't pretend that I have ever been an ornithologist or botanist but undeniably the exoteric features of nature in Georgia and Florida have intrigued me.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Across the Mason-Dixon Line

The Mason-Dixon Line was originally the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the United States.  In the pre-Civil War period (1861 - 1865) it was regarded, together with the Ohio River, as the dividing line between the slave states south of it and the free-soil states north of it.  Between 1763 and 1767 the 233-mile line was surveyed along the parallel 39°43'N by two Englishmen, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, to define the long-disputed boundaries of the overlapping land grants of the Penns (proprietors of Pennsylvania) and the Calverts (proprietors of Maryland).  Today the Mason-Dixon Line still serves figuratively as the political and social dividing line between the North and the South although it does not extend west of the Ohio River.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Courtyard® Marriott, Hagerstown, MD

It isn't often an avowed curmudgeon such as I willingly confesses the subtleties of youth.  Yet the casual acquaintances at Courtyard® Hagerstown earlier this evening provoked such singularity. I feel compelled as a matter of record - and deserved recognition to those of whom I speak - to itemize the particulars. The keenness of these youth deserves the praise of this old trout. Perhaps it is an admission of the passing of the sword from us to them, from one generation to another, from the past to the present.  The frozen truth may even be that there are others in this world who are as perfect as you and I!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

1000 Islands

Our departure this morning went remarkably smoothly.  We only omitted to turn off the water heater. A hurried retreat from the garage resolved that small oversight. Then it was a mechanical performance of our initial plan which included gassing up the car, putting it through the automatic wash and translating the few remaining Petro-Canada points into what we fully anticipate to be the winning lottery ticket for a reported nine hundred thousand dollars. From there it was an unrestricted launch southward along Highway 416 through a very agreeable autumnal corridor to Prescott. As we sank to the St. Lawrence River and traced its meandering shore through to Brockville and onto the Ivy Lea Parkway to Gananoque we passed by street signs like Mud Creek, Blue Church Road, Apple Blossom Drive, Dunham Bay Lane, Tumledown Road and Shipman Point Road. The spectacle was enhanced by the yellow and red changing leaves, the historic riparian stone mansions and the inescapable military flavour of the erstwhile garrisons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

15% discount on eyelash extensions

It's easy to become high-spirited when a glowing cause is in the offing. Tomorrow we begin our trek to Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a journey which hasn't been without its trials throughout the past six months since we returned from our previous winter sojourn on the heels of a near-fatal bicycle accident on the beach at Ponce Inlet in particular and subsequently the mounting discrimination of aging in general. The agony of old age is irrepressible! But with what I can only characterize as propitious serendipity we accomplished what could be done to address these incremental inconveniences and we're now - on the eve of our departure - in a boomps-a-daisy state of mind. The dynamic may certainly enjoy no more than that of a temporary obsession - because as I have reiterated one thousand times "There ain't no ship to take you away from yourself!" For the time being our zeal has willy-nilly embraced a boundless prospect. What after all is the point of diluting this optimistic though potentially ephemeral enthusiasm with weariness of any description! Our detour to southern climes while not qualifying as a holiday per se is nonetheless of sufficient singularity to promote that instinctive human bent for discovery, novelty and escape that comes with travel of almost any description.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Parable of Immortality

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Deplorables

The term "deplorables" (except when famously employed within the context of a "basket of deplorables" by Hillary Clinton on September 9, 2016 to describe the intolerant and hateful nature of half the supporters of her Republican opponent Donald Trump) is a word that does not exist in highly regarded English dictionaries.  Strictly speaking "deplorable" is an adjective which has morphed into a noun referring to the "group of low-life, die-hard Donald Trump supporters who are on the fringes of society, like racist KKK members who support Trump. Now this same group of swamp-dwelling skinheads are no longer offended by the term, now they proudly refer to themselves as deplorables - akin to the way some people proudly embrace calling themselves hillbillies or red-necks or trailer park trash".

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Life Lessons

"GILBERT. Ernest, you are quite delightful, but your views are terribly unsound. I am afraid that you have been listening to the conversation of some one older than yourself. That is always a dangerous thing to do, and if you allow it to degenerate into a habit you will find it absolutely fatal to any intellectual development."

The Critic as Artist:  with some remarks upon the importance of doing nothing
by Oscar Wilde

Life goes on...

Yesterday at one o'clock in the afternoon my sister and I were invited to meet with a physician's assistant and a social worker at the Ottawa Civic Hospital where our 92 year old mother was recently hospitalized following a stroke. We were told that her death is imminent. Apart from palliative care there is nothing further to be done to improve her condition. Naturally there is no certainty regarding her life expectancy - possibly days or weeks - but not likely beyond six months. We immediately began the process of winding up current arrangements (newspaper subscription, massage, dental and hair appointments, manicures and pedicures and residency lease).  Funeral arrangements were made years ago.  An inter vivos trust agreement was already similarly established. A Power of Attorney for Property Management and Personal Care is in place as well as her last Will and Testament.  Only days ago I received from Canada Revenue Agency a Tax Clearance for Distribution Purposes for the estate of my late father who died at 95 years of age on April 8, 2014. Documents for my mother's income tax reporting for 2018 are prepared for delivery to her chartered public accountant before I leave for the winter. Last week I met with her financial advisor to complete the annual performance report of her investment portfolio.  About ten days ago I prepared her draft obituary which I reviewed with her one late summer afternoon in the garden of her retirement residence.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Out of the closets!

Though our scheduled audience today with a learned medical professional did not elicit the most favourable prognosis we could have hoped for, the report is nonetheless palatable (considering our advanced age and incremental tailspin) and more importantly marks a transition.  In the most fundamental terms we have exhausted the obtruding necessities of life and are now free to embrace what we prefer to do.  This includes removing the luggage and cotton clothing from our closets to prepare our sojourn to southern climes.  Our obstacles are now unilaterally those of our respective physicians!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tech Toxic

Nothing propels me downward more speedily than a new "piece" of technology - whether a new computer, Smart Phone or "app". Without exception every new device or software is a legend of frustration and annoyance, anger and regret. Considering that in my lifetime I've owned and adjusted to more than 30 different automobiles (the latest of which are computers on wheels) - but without the agonizing alteration surrounding those new pieces of technology - it infuriates me that I am compelled to endure the predictable lack of achievement every time. I would have expected the pernicious exasperations to be on decline as the technology market widens - but inevitably the latest technology is non-functional at the outset.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Conflating the Universe and one’s personal life may initially seem both ludicrous and impossible, an undertaking far too exact to be of any import. Yet kindling our private response to public affairs is the legitimate product of any analysis in spite of its admixture of general and specific, abstract and particular, theoretical and practice. The contrast is especially evident in a time of great social and political turmoil such as the current global challenges surrounding nationalism, pluralism, entitlement, sexuality, democracy, freedom and religion.  The  ingredients of conjecture and detail precipitate the evolution of some unanticipated reactions ostensibly unrelated. It is however Nature’s product, the sometimes bizarre unfolding of intimate response to abstruse philosophy.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Democracy, truth, apple pie and other pretence

Dissimulation is at the very least chicanery. For even the most practiced magician it is a stunt which threatens not only strategic publicity but more acutely one's inner sense of peace and personal authenticity.  Just as pride ("hubris") has quickened the downfall of many in the past so too is retribution a casualty of mendacity. It is therefore not surprising that we offenders (since I include us all in this sometimes unfortunate characteristic) seek to cover or purify our initial mis-step. What gets in the way of this Heaven-bent amelioration is that we as often employ the same sham proclivities that got us into the mess in the first place. In the end the masquerade can only be overcome by the frozen truth, a legitimate but potentially uncomfortable resort. It is important to assert that even if successful in marketing the deceit, it will continue to plague its originator for years to follow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Obscure Recollections

"Grey and obscure on the horizon rose a low island."

By an odd sequence of events today I was reminded of my acquaintance with several people more than forty years ago. We were at that time mostly young people not long out of graduate school. But three of our number were what was then considered "old" - anywhere from 55 - 65 years of age. They were either currently or recently retired from professional avocations as well. To be truthful however what aligned us was an animated social life - and perhaps more than a passing interest in distilled liquor and fortified wines. There was admittedly an element of lasciviousness which embroidered the congregation but it was generally considered sous entendu.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Neither of us had much ambition today.  A lingering cold and hearing problem, respectively, continue to consume us. We nonetheless felt obliged to motor about the countryside even if only briefly.  Our initial target was the hamlet of Spencerville.  This altered to Prescott along the St. Lawrence Seaway where we're more familiar with Katarina's Café.  But on our way to the car wash in Stittsville we exhausted what little enthusiasm lingered and decided instead to pick up some chicken and baby potatoes for dinner - the traditional "meat and potatoes" salve. It wasn't long after having formulated that relieving plan that I determined as well to go to Grace in the Kitchen to examine their sweets (all deliciously sinful).

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumnal Equinox

Autumn is right around the corner for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, while those in the Southern Hemisphere are gearing up for warmer spring weather. The autumnal equinox arrives on September 22, 2018 at 9:54 pm EDT (0154 GMT September 23). At that time both hemispheres will experience an equal amount of sunlight (and night - 12 hours each) when the sun is directly in line with the equator, evidence that the earth spins on a titled axis. When days begin to grow shorter, deciduous (green leafy) trees start signalling to their leaves to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for the leaves' colour and photosynthesis.  Because the colour change is more dependent on light than temperature, it takes place at basically the same time year after year.  It may however be altered somewhat by temperature and drought.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Is Trump an iconoclast?

The word iconoclast is one whose original sense has altered.

"Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons. People who engage in or support iconoclasm are called iconoclasts, a term that has come to be applied figuratively to any individual who challenges cherished beliefs or venerated institutions on the grounds that they are erroneous or pernicious."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why can't the English learn to speak?

Henry Higgins: Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter,
Condemned by every syllable she utters.
By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.

My Fair Lady - Why Can't The English?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Of necessity...

Twenty-four hours earlier we judiciously resolved to leave the apartment by no later than 3:00 pm. That would give us enough time to have the car washed then arrive at our destination by 4:30 pm when we had been invited for a late afternoon Sunday dinner.  We poozled the liquor cabinet for two bottles of wine - both upmarket naturally - one white for him who drank nothing but; one red for posterity.  Dessert however was our instructed subscription. The wine was a calculated concession.  It was no secret our hosts had long ago abandoned teetotaling. As for dessert we deliberated various models - starting ambitiously with fresh fruit then nippily corrupting to Nanaimo bars, maple butter tarts or ice cream.  In the end we settled upon donuts - the reputedly "healthy" rendition from a local merchant. The wine would be the coup - though in my opinion arriving with a brown paper bag is a modern absurdity of social beneficence. One might as well proclaim insufficiency of the host's cellarette!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The undeniable detail

At one o'clock this morning the grandfather clock clanged its St. Michael chimes. I lay awake for the next hour, swimming in the horrible details of whale harpooning and slaughter houses.  Not an inspiring reflection, one which regrettably translated into other hostile reminders such as memento mori and the steady evaporation of youth. Perhaps the most poisonous admission was that an disagreeable result awaits us all.  It matters not whether your casket is gilded or covered in gray cloth.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Summer Sprint

The day was ideal from the start - clear blue sky, warm sunshine, dry air and that magic feeling - nowhere to go, nothing to do! We began with a five kilometre bike ride along Country Street and back through Town on Perth Street. I hadn't gone bicycling yesterday. I was just too tired for some reason (this shamefully in spite of having lately languished in bed upwards of ten hours each night). So today I attacked the recuperative exercise with gusto! It made for an uplifting opener.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Living in the moment

As wasteful and illogical as it ultimately proves to be, I regularly fail to abide by the well-known admonishment to live in the moment. Instead I ritualistically dwell upon the past or the future, the periphery of life. There is always the air of a compelling reason to do so - a recapitulation of where I've been or where I'm headed, laden with misguided pragmatism and false intellect. Sometimes the preoccupation arises from favourable and stimulating terms; at other times the obsession is less charitable (such as reliving a disagreement or worrying about what might transpire).  Unquestionably the fixation is seldom worth the effort (except perhaps when the reflection gives rise to a more in-depth comprehension of the matter under consideration).  The dalliance certainly will not change the past or predict the future. More notably the absorption diminishes whatever is at hand - a circumstance which is palpable and may well be superlative.

I trust you as far as I can throw a grand piano!

Trust is one of those horribly ethereal and impossibly arcane notions which insinuates our most important relationships - friendship, love and professional associations. Yet in spite of its inscrutability we always know when we do or don't trust someone. Trust has an unquestionable alliance with instinct. And it is one of the few instincts we actually listen to. Seldom do we need to be convinced of our knee-jerk assessment - this though we’re as likely to be at a loss to explain why. Therein lies the very reason we should heed our instincts: trust can be manipulated by profound deceit often surpassing the capacity of the most intellectual among us. People do not historically operate in the context of calculated deception, it's unfamiliar territory. Untrustworthiness borders on an insanity beyond the bounds of a healthy mind.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Seawall against a rising tide of demands for inclusion

Politics since Trump has epitomized the tightening of the noose of the majority - most often portrayed as white, male and Christian. The image - frequently violent and hateful - has overtaken both America and Europe. The battle is largely confined to a division between whites and colours, haves and have-nots, east and west. The mosaic of the porcelain dinner plate has become complicated. On almost every level - gender, race, religion and sexual preference - the erstwhile traditions are being disrupted and it is only a matter of time before the majority becomes the minority. The speediest shift is among the millennials but it is predicted that all other distinctions will follow. The strength in numbers is changing.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It's official - we've arrived!

Shortly after I returned home late this afternoon I was asked if I had checked the mail which I advised I had not.  So in a moment of gusto I collected the damaged frying pan (which earlier this morning we had replaced with a new one from the local hardware store) and said I would dispose of it in the garbage bin downstairs then check the mail.  Somewhere along my little journey to the blue box and the post box I was overtaken by the mildly disturbing thought that I had the wrong day in mind. I glanced at my iPhone. Today is Saturday.  There is no mail delivery on Saturday. Nor was there any mail in the post box.  It's official - we've arrived - though obviously we're not certain exactly where!

Strange bedfellows

Although the frequency of personal assault or gushing approbation is more common during the run-up to an election cycle, the specific habit is nonetheless illustrative of general principles and important social mores. By what doctrines are we to be guided in our assessment of others?  Are those rules of conduct any different in the immediacy of public debate?  Or are the themes the same for private relationships?  We are for example regularly inclined to condemn politicians for being strictly motivated by their apparent self-interest.  Does the same convention predict our personal associations?  Do the qualifications even apply?  Or are there different rules for different people at different times?

"Alas the storm is come again!  My best way is to creep under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabout: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows."

The Tempest, Act 2 Scene 2, William Shakespeare (1610)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Hilary was right!

On September 9, 2016 at a campaign fundraising event in the US presidential election Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton famously described half the Republican Trump supporters as the "basket of deplorables". Reportedly her only regret was having said "half the Trump supporters".  Clinton had previously attacked Trump by suggesting he was "taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party".  It was a prophetic accusation. Regrettably for Clinton however the day after her speech, some political analysts compared the statement to Mitt Romney's 47% gaff in 2012.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Impressionist Treasures at the National Gallery of Canada

Even when we owned an apartment in the By Ward Market within steps of the Musée des beaux-arts du Canada on Sussex Drive and regularly walked our French bulldog Monroe on the magnificent precipice surrounding the Gallery overlooking the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal and the majestic Parliament buildings, we seldom ventured into the Gallery unless there was a specific display of interest.  Today we were moved to attend the collection of impressionist paintings once housed in the manor of a notable Dutch family and subsequently bequeathed to posterity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Keep it simple!

Probably it has forever been so - best to keep it simple.  If nothing else it avoids the evaporation of one's audience.  Today's little adventure was for my personal benefit. I was the audience. And what I kept simple was the focus of my outing.  There is the perpetual temptation to complicate things, to change or renew whatever has been done before, as though it were the way to some relieving novelty.  Certainly pioneering is important. But at a some point in one's life (or perhaps just at a point in one's day) all we require is a simple pleasure without elaboration or singularity.  This objective I happily achieved by driving along Highway #416 from Ottawa to Spencerville, a hamlet about 25 kms north of the St. Lawrence River.  It isn't as though I have never been there before. But it is only recently that I have enlarged my perception of the small town.  And today I landed upon something entirely unanticipated - a furniture store.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

...and it can only get worse

Apart from the practical necessity of having a will and a power of attorney, prearranging my funeral and writing my obituary, I am seldom preoccupied with death.  Nor have I ever been moved by the deeply religious paranoia of Ecclesiastes in the King James version of the Bible, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth when the evil days come not nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say I have no pleasure in them...".  By contrast I am more vehemently prompted by the comment of my friend Pierre who observed years ago after the death of his parents (from whom he thought to add that he had inherited a vast amount of money - what I suspect was well in excess of several million dollars if not indeed far more), "You don't want to grow old poor".

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Say what you mean!

Over forty years ago (while attending Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, NS) I regularly dined with a close friend and her family (parents and in-laws). We always anticipated the promulgation from Uncle Stanley: "Very tasty indeed". Nobody pretended to believe him.  But it sounded pleasant.  It was in addition an excusable comment.  The mantra guaranteed the unspoken but collective notion that poor Uncle Stanley had lost it (he was just plain weird).

Friday, August 31, 2018

Every gentleman has written his obituary

Yesterday morning as we bicycled along Country Street and back through an old part of Town we saw a relic house being demolished on Ann Street. The project was attended by Doug McIntosh of Neilcorp Homes. We stopped to chat. I asked Doug whether he had written his obituary to which he replied, "Yes, I have a Will".  I clarified by saying, no I meant an obituary - because in the end he is likely the best person to render an account of what he has done. I later enquired whether there is anyone in his family who could undertake the duty of a ghost-writer to render a history of Doug's business accomplishments (to which he responded no).  Doug told me that he and his partner Robert Dick had recently bought a large parcel of land on the outskirts of Arnprior where they propose to build a 400-unit residential subdivision. He said there was also another enterprise in the wings in Carleton Place. This naturally adds to the success of his Metcalf Fam and Riverview Estates ventures in Almonte on the two sides of the Mississippi River.  Doug is the son of Alan McIntosh, after whose father Neil the company is named. Doug's mother is Christine McIntosh. They all have roots in the Village of Clayton.  Years ago I acted for Doug and his brother Keith in the exercise of a "shot gun" clause of a shareholders' agreement whereby they forced the buy-out of shares owned by another former shareholder.  It marked the beginning of what has since become a remarkable home construction business in the area.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Rise above it - the case for mediocrity

Very often the seat of tension between people is the mistaken view that a superlative conclusion demands it - usually their own.  Really?  First, the commitment of both parities is probably so entrenched that the accuracy of their beliefs is irrelevant.  Second, except in the context of a court of law or a legislative assembly the axiomatic imperative is likely overkill.  The attraction of logic is best reserved for strictly mathematical environments or other venues where purity is the driving ambition - such as relates to constitutional debate for example. Beyond that there is a deeper need for ambivalence. When it comes to run-of-the-mill quarrels the arcane stuff is best left at the door.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Labour Day Weekend

It tickles me year after year - no matter my advancing age, no matter that I am retired, no matter that I don't live with anyone who is returning to school or university - that I continue to get fired up by Labour Day Weekend.  What particularly comes to mind is not what I perceive to be the international tradition of going back to school but what was in my personal vernacular the ritual holiday to Cape Cod.  I normally lingered there for at least a week - not just the long weekend - because the local guest houses were able to insist at that time of year upon a minimum stay of seven days.  In the early years of my law practice the Labour Day Weekend was the paramount annual holiday, sudden relief from months of pressing real estate activity.  I very distinctly recall my first arrival on the Cape - a calculated detour to the red wooden package store for a bottle of Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Scotch Whiskey which I then considered the height of sophistication.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Panning for Gold

The image of panning for gold has never been a particularly glamorous one. Overall it is closely associated with a blunt, raw and decidedly earthy process. It does however evoke an element of determined conviction, a commitment to which surpasses the lesser intangible preoccupations of life.  In spite of its sometimes vulgar portrayal it characteristically promotes an elemental need.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Sleep Mask

On a trans-Atlantic flight to Europe many years ago I was given a sleep mask by the stewardess.  For several years I traveled back and forth between Europe (where my parents then lived) and Toronto (where I attended boarding school). On each occasion I made a point of getting a new mask to replace the old one. Eventually however the airlines stopped providing the masks.  Frustrated, I wrote to Air Canada to enquire whether I might purchase one.  To my utter surprise I received a subsequent telephone call from a pilot.  He told me there were no masks available but that he would share one of his own with me.  He actually mailed it to me!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Well, that was lucky!

As wont as I am to credit my achievements to intellect, calculation and hard work, I am invariably reminded that a good day - like the weather - is more a consequence of chance (and perhaps a relieving bowel movement) than anything else.  And while the serendipity of the temperament is similarly cosmic (and punishingly diminishing) it does nothing to exhaust the elevation of the moment and the sheer pleasure of what is metaphorically a nice sunny day!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Farting is normal

The once unimaginable election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America has prompted the not uncommon observation that farting is normal, period.  The latest evolution of this metaphor and once mildly embarrassing reality (at least among his base of alleged "deplorables") is that it doesn't matter whether Trump paid hush money for consensual sex with another adult.  The argument is that in the minds of the masses consensual sex with others during marriage is either natural, normal, expected, historical, tolerable or irrelevant. That may very well be true though as a matter of fact - actual or alternative - it is conveniently impossible to prove it. I haven't yet resolved how the diehard Christians rationalize the debate (but they're generally more vocal when attacking people than when supporting them).

Monday, August 20, 2018


We all know "love is like a never-ending melody". But getting in tune with oneself ranks as an irrefragable second in my books.  Today as I streamed along the winding road in my open car on what is assuredly one of the final balmy days of summer, it was a moment of magic, pleasant dreams and wishful thinking. The emerald towers of corn husks glittered under the azure dome in the country fields. The car shone from its wash; the engine hummed. I listened (with some effort against the whistling wind) to my iPhone music library, greedily switching from one favourite to another. It was an unimpeachable return to self-indulgence.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Speaking out against fake news

Soon after the publication of "Common Sense" (1776) Thomas Paine states that he "saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion" and that "man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God and no more". It is however important to recall that Paine's view of religion was "humanized" in the sense that religion involved the display of it in the works of the creation and by the repugnance we feel in ourselves to bad actions and the disposition to do good ones.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

There's no disguising 18K gold!

There are certain phenomena which are oftentimes peculiar to advancing age - for example, creaking knees, arthritis and occasionally some hard-won wisdom. What however I hadn't anticipated is an awakening to the finer bakeries in the area.  For some reason we've lately bumped into one superb bakery after another.  It was an arousal which was both unintended and unexpected.  Take Equator Café in Almonte - they carry a mouthwatering collection of butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, muffins and sticky buns.  Another similar rendition (which they justifiably call "gourmet") is the display case at Grace in the Kitchen in Stittsville.  What sparked my inquiry today was the request for a homemade blueberry pie.  Knowing as I did that the Maberly Bakery (in Tay Valley near Perth) makes what I consider the best apple pie in the world, I landed there this afternoon fraught with ambition.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Afternoon on the Water

It was the perfect summer day for a boat tour on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands!  The Village of Gananoque was fairly buzzing when we arrived shortly after noon today after wending our way on the idyllic back roads of United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. There are no doubt alternative ways to take a jaunt on the River - but the boat tour is unquestionably the most convenient and least expensive (about $45 for the two of us for an hour tour).  Years ago the demographic for boat tours was likely old fogeys like us; but now the audience is young and predominantly Asian or Latin.  Indeed the taped recordings on the boat were in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.  The verbal exchanges between the members of the crowd were decidedly international. But apart from that difference, the nature of the people was civilized and courteous.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Breakfast of Champions!

We're rapidly approaching the middle of August!  This most desirable summer is quickly passing us by!  Small wonder we determined to visit Rock-N-Horse Farm on Rae Road for breakfast this morning, the ideal way to begin another exceptional summer weekend! I am bound to add parenthetically that we initiated this golden summer day with a constitutional bicycle ride along Country Street and round the 8th Line of Ramsay.  Thus energized - and after a revitalizing cold shower - we sailed along the picturesque rural road to our destination, the 180-acre spread of Arlee and Diane Sheets.  The breakfast menu today was a pulled-pork sandwich on a bun, Cole slaw and a fruit salad. To my utter satisfaction the fruit salad was replaced with a homemade piece of blueberry pie!  The Sacrament of Heaven!

Friday, August 10, 2018

What a beautiful day!

In addition to expiating my guilt for not having bicycled for the past two days (it was rainy - honestly), we further lathered the mid-morning ingenuity by afterwards completing a small-scale but requisite grocery shopping. By one o'clock the interfering dictates of existence had been fully exhausted. I took a cooling shower, put on some fresh clothes then directed myself to the garage where my car was parked. I was set to indulge myself in what is undeniably one of my favourite pastimes; viz., an ambling tour to the car wash in Stittsville and afterwards a 4-shot espresso on ice at Neat Café in Burnstown.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Marking Time

Whenever our housekeeper visits, we get out of her way.  The occasion has become a mini-vacation in some respects because we feel the necessity to abandon the apartment for virtually the entire day. Admittedly we've fallen into that comic trap of tidying up the place before it is cleaned.  While we don't do anything like scrubbing or vacuuming, we freshen the bed clothes and bathroom towels; we put away the myriad of things spread out on the bathroom and kitchen counters; the computers are closed and closeted; fresh foods are put on the shelves of cupboards.  I even wind the clocks!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Morganatic Existence

Morganatic marriage was originally and mainly a German custom. It was marriage between a high-ranking man and a woman of lower rank (rarely the other way round) in which the woman keeps her former status and in which any children of the marriage are not allowed to inherit the property of their father or his rank or titles (his dignities in the jargon of this esoteric legal field). It has its roots in an idea common in medieval Germany that people who entered into a variety of transactions, not just marriage, were expected to be of similar social standing. The most celebrated such marriage in modern times was that between Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek, both of whom died in the assassination at Sarajevo in 1914 that triggered the First World War.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Gems in our own back yard

This morning I read an article on the BBC news that an ancient Roman 24K gold signet ring (200 - 300 AD) was found by a metal detectorist in a Somerset field.  The ring has been referred to the British Museum for assessment.  Meanwhile in less dramatic outings today (but with equal attention to the local environment) I discovered some jewels of a different nature in my own backyard. While I can't assert there is anything particularly startling about my discoveries, they are nonetheless sufficiently noteworthy to warrant recognition.  Given the current popularity of all things local, I thought this intelligence may be of some value.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Mornings are rather like the description of one's state of mind - a changing but relentless account. Their repetitive frequency affords an historical insight into the entirety of one's life.  Normally I wouldn't think to dwell upon the seemingly mundane subject.   But today's enthusiasm is so uplifting that it has prompted me to expatiate. This morning is one of those ideal summer mornings - blue sky, dazzling yellow sunshine, balmy temperature, nothing pressing on the agenda and a comfortable feeling about recent provocations.