LONDON, ONTARIO – Back in the late ‘80s / early ‘90s, some incarnation of our downtown business association got it into their heads that they needed to define the precise boundaries of downtown London. No doubt there was some issue about membership dues or eligibility for tax breaks that made such tortuous calculations seem necessary. But merchants and Londoners generally (there had been dark mutterings in the press) were starting to chafe at the exclusionary, snobbish overtones of the whole exercise until the gentle elder statesman of downtown shopkeepers, Fred Kingsmill, stood up at an association confab and contributed his two cents’ worth: “I always think of downtown London as being anywhere within the sound of St. Paul’s bells.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – For those of us who alternately enjoy and suffer from our status as lifelong Londoners, the sense of loss we can experience when demolition or an extensive architectural makeover messes with some beloved cityscape, can be almost as desolating as the death of an old friend. Considering that the only investment we have in such properties is emotional or associative, our grief in such instances is a kind of indulgence that we’re not really entitled to. We’re not on the hook for maintaining or upgrading such buildings. We don’t have to pay for the impracticality of perpetuating the outmoded and we don’t have to try to find tenants to rent out such relics and somehow make them sort of viable. And yet when property owners or landlords do what they deem necessary to turn some sort of profit, we can nonetheless feel violated and robbed; as if they’ve just made off with some significant portion of our civic identity and didn’t have the decency to check with us first to see if we were amenable. It's touchy, tetchy stuff that can breed outrage and resentment for developers and conservationists alike.
LONDON, ONTARIO – During a late summer visit with an old friend last September, we nursed our drinks in the moonlight on his back porch as we discussed a whole raft of newly-crafted social and political conventions that have somehow won wide purchase and which, taken in their totality, leave us feeling like alienated and vaguely criminal geezers from another planet. Though our subject matter was disconcerting, we luxuriated in the rare pleasure of being able to operate our vocal cords in a free-wheeling atmosphere where obligatory boxes of obeisance did not have to be ticked before we could proceed; where taking offense, throwing a snit or crying like a baby would not be regarded as compelling counter arguments. What were some of these preposterous new conventions which we neither accept nor uphold?
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :