Sunday, July 8, 2018

Funny how that happens!

An event occurred today which hasn't any particular distinction other than it is the continuation of an acquaintance and friendship which transpired in a most unlikely way. It is surprisingly easy to allow these once odd circumstances to evaporate from memory.  But revitalizing the account is worthy. Here is a copy of what I wrote in 1996:

"Life never ceases to amaze me! From my public school days I remember very clearly The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. Its memorialization of coincidence and the significance we are to derive from it has never left me. Perhaps it is the romantic element that causes me to embrace, and even at times champion, coincidence and to a lesser degree its sister destiny. But rather than viewing coincidence as anything as foreboding as fatalism, I prefer to see coincidence as an opportunity in life to profit by the concurrence of events, to bring about an ultimate conclusion which is a correspondence of substance, nature and character, not merely fate.

This introduction is meant to lay the ground-work for the day I met Alan S. Diner. It was a hot summer day in late August in Ottawa, 1996. I was sitting along side the Ottawa River with my friend Janet Rintoul, having a pic-nic of bread and cheese. My dog, Monroe, was with me, occasionally stealing bits of cheese, as he cautiously waded in and out of the water's edge. Sometime during this tranquil event, a jogger came along. It was Alan. He was scantily clad in a pair of red onion skin shorts, and of course the statutory pair of running shoes, which always look to me like something one would use to outfit a small truck. Alan had obviously been running for some time, because the sweat was pouring off him, and whether it was that or Monroe that caused him to stop, I am not sure. But Alan clearly had an interest in Monroe, and I then engaged in what had by now become a thoroughly standardized explanation of what type of dog he was, that, No, he wasn't growling, He just can't breathe; discussion of his age, etc., etc., etc.

I then turned the conversation to a discussion of the interloper, and when I asked him whether he was from the area, he said he lived here for the past summer, but he was returning to Toronto tomorrow. This immediately prompted me to ask what law firm he had articled with. This observation caused Alan to step back a little, and he replied that in fact he had been clerking to one of the Justices of the Federal Court. I asked which Judge in particular, and he replied Mr. Justice Hugessen. "Jim and Mary Hugessen!", I proclaimed. "Wonderful people! They go to the same Church as I do in Almonte." I suppose I should have put it the other way around, "That I go to the same Church as they do", especially considering Mary's family - the Rosamonds - effectively built it by eliminating the property debt which otherwise impeded the sanctification of the ground by the Bishop!

This flurry of conversation, the sudden recognition of something so totally unexpected, had the effect of opening up a floodgate of possibilities. I then indicated that I had plans to have some people to Almonte that evening for one of the last summer evening barbecues, and would he care to join us? He hesitated a moment, since he had apparently already made arrangements with friends to spend the last few hours in Ottawa with them; but, he accepted the invitation, and we then made plans for him to meet other friends in Ottawa before heading out to the country.

As so often happens in circumstances such as these, where spontaneity and coincidence are at their playful best, the evening turned out to be a smash hit. Alan was of course the star of the evening, not only because of his charm, good looks and worldly interest; but he stunned us all at the end of the evening when he sat down to the Steinway grand and played numerous classical pieces at the level of a concert pianist. As it turns out, his mother had wanted him to be a concert pianist, but of course he opted for law. To jump ahead a bit on this point, as recently as September of 1999, Alan had determined to head back to Toronto again (he had in the meantime been with law firms in both Toronto and Ottawa) to take up digs as in-house Counsel for a firm specializing in entertainment law, which perhaps combines the two occupations.

Alan has always made a point of including me in his visits to Ottawa. Most recently, he and his delightful lady friend, Lisa Cameron (to whom he is now engaged to be married), visited for a couple of days in Almonte. They are both considerably younger than I, but we do not seem to get bogged down on that point. Alan is also good about reuniting with Jim and Mary Hugessen, and we (including Denis Arial) have on more than one occasion foregathered on a Sunday morning at the Victoria Woollen Mill in downtown Almonte for brunch."

I mention this because yesterday evening we dined at the golf club with Alan, Lisa and Aaron (their youngest of four children).  Alan has since been appointed to the Federal Court of Canada.  His judicial duties take him across the country repeatedly for appellate reviews. In addition to visiting us - and in keeping with what is dangerously close to becoming a tradition - Alan and his family earlier saw Mr. Justice James Hugessen and his new wife, Louise.

At table on the outdoor patio overlooking the first tee our discussions covered a range of topics - work (including the evolution of the Law Society of Upper Canada), money, children, marriage, parents, travel, health and hopes for the future. The junior member of our consortium amused himself by wandering about the adjoining garden and gazing at the plump geese which were browsing at the water's edge of the Mississippi River. We lingered until the sun began to decline behind the huge oak tree.

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