Saturday, June 29, 2019

Canada Day Weekend

Though today is June 29th - and Canada Day is not until July 1st - it is nonetheless a Saturday, a hot and sunny one at that, a triumph of a mid-summer day. It is for most people the centre of the prolonged holiday weekend. When I went shopping for groceries this afternoon following my constitutional bicycle ride this morning along the old railway line it was evident that the celebrations are well under way.  There were families congregated on front lawns - adorned with red and white anything; at the grocery store people swelled the meat counter for barbecue items; when returning home a truck went by with a flapping Canadian flag posted on its cargo bin.  It is impossible not to be moved by the event!  There is by any standard good reason to rejoice being in Canada.

Friday, June 28, 2019


Over fifty years ago I was told by a friend's father - a medical physician - about a makeshift device from which he hung to stretch and relieve his spine. At the time the intelligence was a curiosity only. Some twenty years afterwards  - when the impact of high school football, repetitive cycling and prolonged sitting at university and law school had begun to insinuate my being and to show their repercussions - one of my more free-thinking clients referred me to a chiropractor for what had developed as chronic lower back pain.  On my client's advice I consulted a chiropractor in nearby Carleton Place; the chap has since retired and we now see one another only occasionally at the golf club.  The introduction began what has become a lifetime acquaintance with the art and profession. Recently however my frequency of visits to a chiropractor has been interrupted while I recover from broken ribs suffered when my heart abruptly stopped over a year ago while bicycling on the beach in Florida. During the same time the pain in my back has increased and begun to radiate both down my legs and up my back. I believe my condition has been exacerbated by continued daily bicycle rides throughout the year - using always the same muscles - as we have taken to removing ourselves southward annually for six months from October through to April. Today - on the recommendation of my dentist (who had severe back problems) and after my second attendance upon Chris Hashimoto, DC - I am walking and feeling better than I have for a very long time. The chiropractor clearly knows what he is doing; his particularity and patent talent have paid off to my enormous and decidedly uplifting advantage. The further good news is that his local office is nearby at 500 Ottawa Street in Almonte next to Levi Home Hardware.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

American politics

It may seem odd that a life-long resident of Canada, born in MontrĂ©al and having lived and worked for the past forty-three years in small-town rural Ontario should find American politics captivating. But I do. The enthralment interestingly reflects a similar absorption of my predecessor in the practice of law, R. A. Jamieson, QC. Over the past ten years or so - since we increasingly began spending part or all of our winter in the United States of America - my curiosity and understanding of American politics has grown. I hasten to add that the winter sojourns are not in themselves cause for the burgeoning interest and fascination.  I have for example discovered during the same period that I know more about American politics than many Americans.  This is perhaps a small compliment because it really discloses little more than that I spend enormous time watching US cable television (including Fox) dedicated solely to marketing the topic; and, I consider it perfectly natural to troll CNN and BBC news daily on the internet to unfold the latest strange developments in American politics.  I am by contrast shamefully ignorant of Canadian politics, both federal and provincial, except to the extent that they derive fertility from American politics. I likewise suffer an embarrassing disregard for foreign affairs generally. My present political amusement - like everything else I have done all my life - is devoted to a niche objective.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Snap out of it!

Going back in time is mildly entertaining, no doubt, but it can be wasteful.  It may even trumpet the beginning of the end, a prospect I'd prefer to ignore for the moment. Most of what I derive from the past is melancholy - people who have gone, events that transpired out of reach, distorted memories. More meaningfully the sorting of one's debris from physical or metaphysical drawers is plainly distracting.  I am hard pressed to attach serious value to anything in the past other than what it affords in the present. This is not to diminish the undeniable chemistry of historical events but rather to emphasize the urgency of what follows. We must play upon the strengths that exist not the punishment of our losses.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Shapeless self indulgence

Being as I am a relic of an institution similar to the British public school system - which is to say, a private all-male boarding school - my acquaintance with the machinations of family is limited and partly jaundiced.  What comes to mind is the disparity between bright busy surfaces and inner emptiness. We had for example one student from South America who to my knowledge never went home.  He just stayed at school during term, then traveled. Our idle speculation was that he was a love child. Considering I was set upon the world at school at the age of 14 years - and that I never thereafter returned home - it is hardly surprising that I haven't much meaningful to say about family apart from Christmas and summer holidays. So entrenched was I in my own ways upon graduating from boarding school that even that summer - when I had an opportunity to stay at home before returning to residence in the autumn for undergraduate studies - I instead jumped ship almost instantly and joined a street theatre troupe on Madison Avenue in Toronto. Apparently my commitment to solitary existence trumped family.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Who are those people I really hate?

"Of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made."

Immanuel Kant

Misanthropy - the hatred, dislike, mistrust or contempt of humanity - is a state often confused with unsociability. The latter is an expression of grumpiness; the former is a condition.  The difference is between temperament and disorder.  Lest confusion should mistakenly arise from mere excitability, it behooves me to dilute my curmudgeonly character with an examination of the broad query, "Where exactly is it written?"  The diversion enables me to remedy a malaise (what Gustave Flaubert called the "suppressed rage at the folly of men") and to redirect the exploration to an as yet unconsidered analysis of purely scientific resource (that is, what exactly predicts acceptable behaviour). Like so many elaborate debates, the answer lies in the question. There is no code of human behaviour - other than the self-serving creations of politics and religion. Whence then do we take our lead? Are we just inches away from animals? Do we create our own ethics? Can we rely upon the example of others?  Should we?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Continental Ride

One of the last times I was on a horse was at a so-called "dude" ranch when I was about ten years old. My parents sent me there for two weeks and I ended staying a month.  It wasn't the horses that attracted me, it was the thrill of being away from home. The ranch was in Ontario in the Muskoka Lakes region; my parents were then living in Washington, DC. My precise recollection of horses is not very appealing.  We went on a wagon-train outing deep into the woods. It began to rain. There were only a few chuck wagons; and they were not large. Most of us had to sleep on the forest floor in a sleeping bag under a lean-to of pine boughs through which the torrential rain seeped profusely. This indignity alone would have been sufficient abuse.  I had the further unpleasant duty of hobbling the front legs of the horses to prevent them from escaping during the night.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Summer Day

Suddenly we're articulating astonishment that Canada Day on July 1st approaches in about a week! The transition from a prolonged and seemingly endless wet and cold springtime to summer has precipitously taken place at last.  This weekend in particular - on the heels of the midsummer solstice - is spectacular. The air is soft and dry. The atmospheric pressure is unmistakably high. The white, billowing clouds and verdant country fields each captures a painterly vista.  Not surprisingly we drove about the countryside today with the landau roof put back and the windows open wide!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dinner in the Village

When we headed homeward this evening around ten o'clock after dinner in the village at the country seat of my erstwhile physician the sky was still remarkably bright. Today is the Summer Solstice, the putative cause for our midsummer assembly. The day proved to be ideal for al fresco appetizers on the deck where we first lounged within wafting distance of the barbecue. I am sated from the scrumptious meal - including pointedly the traditional fresh fruit, cream and meringue for dessert.  Our host proffered as well a witty book by Julian Clary, "Briefs Encountered" - a relic I believe from one of his many international travels.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lower Brewers Lock 45

The existential mandate is never far removed from my routine daily absorptions. This morning while farming my way through the sliced green apple and steel cut oats I contemplated what I should be doing to expiate my Protestant Ethic.  Work - in the literal sense - was naturally impractical.  What I intended was an accommodating conceptual pursuit, say a visit to the National Art Gallery on Sussex Drive or delving into my latest literary acquisition, A History of Law in Canada, Vol. 1 (Beginnings to 1866).  The endeavour was speedily tranquillized by a confession that the approbation of social convention has increasingly diminished in value for me; which is to say, I can bear the deprivation of anything that doesn't appeal to my arrant instinct. This, it turns out, is a reflection of my burgeoning preference for such anatomical privileges as rural environments, country roads and bucolic settings generally.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pathetic Fallacy

The personification of nature is crowned a literary or artistic instrument. As cunning as the device may be, I attach more probity to nature's affect on mankind than the other way round (quite apart from the obvious influence of wet, heat and cold). Today for example was decidedly temperate and my demeanour reflected it. Fraught with hovering anxiety this morning I poisonously lingered in my lair until nine o'clock.  Getting out of bed after seven o'clock is a rueful tardiness I prefer not to observe routinely. As I drew back the bedroom curtains however the clemency instantly uplifted my spirits. Possibly more enduring complaints would have continued to preoccupy me notwithstanding the favourable sunshine and azure sky; but in this instance the revolutions which had clouded the early morning gloom were washed away.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ice Pack

After having applied considerable heat to our agenda for the past two months following our return to terra firma, it is more than a bit relieving at last to forego the pressures of obligation and uncertainty such as  have primarily and routinely attended a multitude of medical attendances upon the learned members of the provincial universal health care system. The capitulations to medical necessity naturally accompany a commensurate decline with aging. Nature has knowingly relieved us of mandatory service in order to permit us - thus unobstructed - to address other less wholesome duties.  I now readily concur with those who with gathering frequency comment upon my evident declension - usually manifested in a cumbersome walk - as though suffering either incapacity or injury (both of which I suppose are true).

Technology and Toys

When the fax machine became an attraction in the commercial world years ago it heralded what was initially my doubtful but ultimately addictive dedication to popular technology. Either curiosity or a fear of being left behind prompted me to succumb to the absorption. Once bitten an insatiability overtook me. What followed was electronic typewriters, computers (word processing, email, the internet, on-line software) and smartphones. From the start I have updated devices regularly, often yearly and sometimes more frequently.  I have never been disappointed by developing technology.  Yesterday I bought my first smartwatch, another of my preferred Apple products, a Series 4 (GPS), 44 mm Space Grey Aluminium Case with Black Sport Band.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Washer Fluid

The vegetation is extraordinarily lush. It has been raining on and off for weeks. Occasionally the gloom is interrupted by fragments of sunshine.  The promise is for heat and sun most of next week. The predominantly foul weather has helped eclipse two annoyances which provoked me: damage to my car; and an inguinal hernia.  In that order.  The hernia disabled me for several days while I prepared for the surgery and afterwards recovered from it. The narcotics helped. The car thing lingered until just an hour ago. In both instances the disagreeable weather mimicked my mood.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Candid Thoughts

Such were the preoccupations of this young man. Perhaps they would have been different, if he had had a little less of what Newman describes as his 'high severe idea of the intrinsic excellence of Virginity'; but it is useless to speculate.

Giles Lytton Strachey (1 March 1880 - 21 January 1932), “Eminent Victorians”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Today we swung by the ancient County Court House in Perth, Ontario on our way to Westport. Though the trek along Drummond Street is not the usual way I'd take to go to Westport I felt the latent criminal urge to return to the scene of the crime.  In the near forty years of practicing law in the County of Lanark, I attended the Perth Court House on a number of occasions, some of which were actually quite pleasant (as when dealing with a young family's adoption approval); others, not so much.

Happy Birthday!

When it comes to birthdays, numbers without fives or zeros don’t count. Certainly before five years of age anything ending in "months" (18 months, 24 months, etc.) is completely irrelevant; and few children under the age of five get the significance of all the fuss. The only exceptions thereafter are 16, 21 and 99. Otherwise every other birthday is a retail failure  - about as interesting as saying you’re going to church before brunch. It's Nature’s way of affording relief from the highly questionable value of birthday cards and the calculated annoyance of having to sanction your disappointments or impending removal.  Besides if anyone really felt the need to buy you something from Tiffany & Co they could have done that any other day of the year.

Monday, June 10, 2019

There's a piece missing

Never in my life until now have I ever felt that a piece was missing. The expression of this loss relates unequivocally to the loss of my parents.  Until recently I adjusted to their respective deaths the same way I would cope with almost any other event in my life - that is, getting on with things, dealing with whatever had to be done, no looking back, just handling the immediate needs and moving on.  Naturally this is a favourable characteristic under most circumstances of sudden and uncontrollable change (as both of their deaths essentially were in spite of the fact that they each lived long lives - my father to 96 years of age, my mother to 92).  Neither of my parents suffered a long-term lingering demise. Perhaps it is for this reason that their sudden disappearance is akin to any other immediate loss or evaporation - you turn around and they're gone! Once again their loss was all the more catastrophic because there hadn't been a lot of alerts to the end.  Predominantly things just went on as usual, subject to the predictable consequences of aging.  I wasn't prepared for their precipitous death.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

I love a good laugh!

I recently received a terribly entertaining email.  It appealed to my sense of political and social gossip - maybe even more brutish interests. For a curmudgeonly (and perhaps unconfessed bloodthirsty) fellow such as myself it was beyond compelling! I've attached a copy below.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A very civilized afternoon

The issue of productivity is easily confused with the lesser ambition of amusement. Though the two initially appear to be polar opposites - the one (productivity) importing usefulness; the other (amusement) resounding of uselessness - both are as readily subject to identical flattery and condonation for practically the same reasons. The pursuit of productivity for example can equate to single-minded preoccupation with repetitive behaviour calculated only to promote the appearance of constructive activity - what, in the words of a former acquaintance, amounts to "lots going on and nothing happening". Likewise the appetite for amusement can translate into a profound manifestation of artistic expression if the equally serious effort is devoted to what one enjoys.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Bicycle Trail

The brand new Mississippi Mills trail for walking/cycling/ATVs and snowmobiles is an extremely pleasant addition. We gave it a try today, the first sunny, warm morning we've had for weeks, just when we were beginning to lose hope of seeing summertime.  The venture was for me an entirely new perspective upon this part of Almonte - no small observation after almost precisely 43 years here (I arrived June 12, 1976). The trail follows the former B&O Railway which was in use from Confederation until as recently as about five years ago. My impression and knowledge of detail concerning what is contained herein is not reliable; however, my initial ride along the trail this morning provoked many ancient and hitherto dormant memories. I should first say that in this area the Brockville and Ottawa Railway had discernibly little to do with either.  What the railway more accurately reflected was the importance and persuasion of such people as the Rosamond family in Almonte.  I believe it was the Rosamond sheep herders who, in the interest of assisting their business of wool gathering and sale, applied to the ruling government leaders (primarily I would suspect at the federal level where the railway enjoyed its cultural and legal paramountcy) to redirect the B&O Railway from its original scope along the Ottawa River towards Renfrew (to service the burgeoning forestry industry) through Almonte where there was an equally productive woollen industry.  Consider for example that the cost of building multiple bridges to accommodate this diversion was not negligible. At that time there were something like four hotels in Almonte attending to the needs of the millworkers, local trades and associated transient businessmen (entrepreneurs and investors) from Toronto, Montreal and England. There was the contemporaneous exploit of mining in nearby Lanark Highlands, the management of some of which spilled onto at least one lawyer in Almonte (W. H. Stafford).

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Bread and Butter

As elemental as bread and butter are I never tire of them.  Even more so because there is seemingly no limitation upon their scope. Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter for example is superb, a product with which my more refined and gastronomically-inclined friends are I discovered already well acquainted. Closer to home I have today been introduced to a product from Prince Edward Island. Happily for me it also captures a maritime connection (perhaps it is the sea salt to which I inadvertently allude).

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Greek Gods

God of trade, thieves and trickery; goddess of love, pleasure and passion. Hermes and Aphrodite. Mercury and Venus.  Not at all an unlikely combination.  Though Hermaphrodite - the androgynous product of their union - might not have been so readily predicted. What seemingly preserves the Greek mythology from complete ruin is the blend of oratory and beauty, pointedly traits not unfamiliar to the Catholic church for example.

Monday, June 3, 2019


Very often the curse and blessing of life is our relationship with one another. It is an unfortunate contradiction because as frequently the same person is the object of devotion and evil. It naturally aids the poetry of the analysis to dismiss or overlook the multitude of other misfortunes which may regularly attend our lives - like disease, accident and financial distress - but unquestionably the human component has greater inertia and volatility.  The collateral features of damnation and denunciation afford a singularly toxic submersion from which none but the most generous or intellectual are likely to extricate themselves unharmed.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Fluffy, white clouds

Listening to Jeff Beal, Kerry Muzzey and Ludovico Einaudi guarantees a mindful influence. To add to the experience, the atmosphere has dried out. The grey skies and humidity have gone. Instead there are fluffy white clouds. The high pressure lends to elevation and fantasy. My skin feels fresh; my vision is acute; the landscape broadens and invites inspiration. As the molecules evaporate, the weight disappears - the burdens, the anxieties, the restraints. I can see in the distance.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Country Tea Party

Thanks to P. G. Wodehouse, Aunt Agatha has long been my heroine from Bertie Wooster's tome of misadventures. Her real-life twin is a fond acquaintance and former client of mine, Priscilla.  At the Saturday morning Farmer's Market today by the Elizabeth Kelly Library we interrupted our cycling to gaze at the latest produce and to chat with those in attendance. As is not uncommon in an unhurried rural engagement, one thing led to another. Priscilla invited me to scope her Heintzman upright grand piano, a venture I couldn't resist.  I shared with her that I had many years ago attended boarding school with Charlie Heintzman, a descendant of the celebrated Toronto piano manufacturer.