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.