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.